Recently, Pittsburgh’s City Council made headlines by passing the Paid Sick Days Act, requiring all employers within the City to provide paid sick leave to employees. Pittsburgh is now the 20th city to enact such a law.  This new requirement is expected to impact over 50,000 employees within the City.


Under the ordinance, employers in the City with 15 or more employees must provide eligible workers with one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.  Employers in the City with less than 15 employees need only accrue up to a maximum of 24 hours of paid sick leave per employee per year.  While paid sick leave which has accrued and goes unused must roll over to the following year, employees still may not use more than 40 hours of paid sick leave – or 24 hours if their employer has less than 15 employees – per year.  Moreover, despite this rollover obligation, employers do not have to pay the cash equivalent for unused paid sick leave under the Act.

Under the Act, workers can begin using their accrued sick time 90 days after the start of their employment.  Sick leave may be used by employees in hour increments or the smallest payroll increment used for absences by the employer, and workers may use this time for their personal illness or a family member’s illness.  An employee who intends to use sick time must provide at least one hour notice to their employer prior to the start of their shift unless the employer maintains a notification policy.  The Ordinance requires City employers to keep records of their employees’ time worked and paid sick leave for at least two years.

If a City employer violates these new requirements, they will be subject to $100 fine for each violation; however, this fine will not be imposed during the first year that the Ordinance takes effect.

While these types of bills are starting to take greater hold at state and local levels given Congress’ failure to pass such a law for the United States as a whole, the ordinance in Pittsburgh came as a bit of a surprise.  Moreover, not only was the substance of the legislation shocking, but the manner in which the Ordinance was passed caused some to pause.  The Pittsburgh City Council introduced, considered, amended, and passed the amended Ordinance in less than a month.

Skeptics assert that the bill was proposed and passed so quickly because the City Council was acting under questionable authority in passing the Ordinance, and there are rumblings that a challenge will likely be made to kill the Ordinance on the grounds it is preempted by state law, which generally does not permit municipalities with home-rule charters to impose duties, responsibilities, or requirements on businesses.  Pittsburgh just so happens to be such a municipality.

Despite the foregoing, employers cannot sit around hoping that such a challenge is raised. Instead, they should review their own leave policies and begin amending them to comply with the minimum standards set forth in the Ordinance.  Stay tuned to the Employment Essentials’ blog for further developments related to this Ordinance as they occur.

Andrew Barber focuses his practice in the area of labor and employment law and general litigation, representing a diverse group of clients from small business owners to larger commercial businesses. Mr. Barber's experience includes the interpretation of collective bargaining agreements, employment discrimination, unemployment compensation disputes, breach of contract actions and defamation.
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