Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 17, 2017, a panel of judges on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania struck a second blow to Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Days Act, leaving the Act’s future in serious jeopardy.
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania’s May 17, 2017 decision on the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act (“PSDA”) affirmed the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas’ December 21, 2015 order invalidating the law which would have required employers to provide paid sick leave to all eligible Pittsburgh employees.
Pittsburgh is a “home rule charter” municipality, meaning its authority to regulate businesses is limited unless expressly provided by statewide statute. The City introduced multiple arguments to overcome its home rule charter status. For instance, the City argued that the PSDA falls within its authority to enact public health regulations pertaining to “building codes.” The Commonwealth Court rejected this argument as out of context, namely, that the City failed to establish a connection between the PSDA and building codes.
The City next argued it has the right to promulgate regulations for the general health of its citizens per the state’s Second Class City Code.3 Once again, the Commonwealth Court disagreed. Specifically, the court noted that the PSDA’s imposition of “numerous affirmative duties” on employers was not expressly authorized by statute, and therefore ran afoul of Pennsylvania’s Home Rule Charter Law.
Finally, the Commonwealth Court also struck down the Service Employees International Union’s argument that public policy justifies the PSDA. The court explained that “neither the wisdom nor the purpose of the [PSDA] is material” to the issue of whether the City had authority to adopt the PSDA. Due to the Home Rule Charter Law and lack of a statute explicitly authorizing Pittsburgh to enact the PSDA, the Commonwealth Court found that the City lacks any such authority.
While not yet filed, it is likely that the City will appeal the Commonwealth Court’s decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If overturned, the PSDA would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide each eligible employee with one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours the employee works in Pittsburgh, up to 40 hours (i.e., five days) of paid sick leave per year. Employers with fewer than 15 employees would be required to provide their employees with one hour of unpaid sick leave for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh, up to 24 hours (i.e., three days) of unpaid sick leave per year. After the law’s first anniversary, employers with fewer than 15 employees would be required to provide paid sick leave at the same accrual rate and up to the same 24-hour cap as set forth during the law’s inaugural year. For more information on the PSDA, see our previous postings here and here.
While this decision does not affect Philadelphia’s paid sick leave ordinance, a similar challenge may await the City of Brotherly Love if Pennsylvania courts ultimately put the PSDA to bed.