Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Pittsburgh's Paid Sick Days Act

Bowles Rice Labor and Employment e-Alert
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds
Pittsburgh's Paid Sick Days Act

By Jennifer B. Hagedorn, Esq.

On March 15, 2020, the Paid Sick Days Act will take effect in the City of Pittsburgh. The Act, which was originally passed in 2015, was challenged by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association along with several other Pittsburgh businesses. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently upheld this ordinance and now all businesses located within the city limits of Pittsburgh will have 90 days from the effective date of March 15 to comply with this new law.

In its 4-3 ruling, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that Pittsburgh officials have the "express statutory authority to legislate in furtherance of disease control and prevention." The three dissenting justices disagreed with the argument that requiring employers to pay for sick days would assist in disease control and prevention.

This new law requires all private employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works. For those employers with more than 15 employees, paid sick leave will accrue and be capped at 40 hours per year. Employers with less than 15 employees have a cap of 24 hours per year. Small employers with less than 15 employees are given a one-year reprieve under the Act in that the leave for the first year may be unpaid. However, effective March 15, 2021, these employers must provide up to 24 hours paid sick leave.

The guidelines for administering the Paid Sick Days Act are posted on the City of Pittsburgh's website and contain much needed guidance for employers. There are strict guidelines on whether employers can require documentation of sick days. In general, if the sick time lasts three or more full consecutive days, reasonable documentation by employers can be requested. However, employers cannot require that the documentation specify the precise nature of the illness. A note from a physician stating that sick time was necessary is considered reasonable. Furthermore, all health information about an employee or his or her family must be treated as confidential and reasonable steps must be taken to protect its confidentiality. Employers are also required to posts a notice of employee rights under the Paid Sick Days Act. A sample sign can be located on the City of Pittsburgh website. These are just a few examples of new administrative requirements for employers under the Paid Sick Days Act.

Although there is no federal law requiring paid sick leave for the private sector, several state and city governing bodies across the country have instituted laws similar to Pittsburgh's. As more and more local governments pursue paid sick leave initiatives, it only makes sense to review your company's policies and prepare accordingly. Contact the Labor and Employment team at Bowles Rice for experienced counsel on this and other employment-related issues.

About the Author:

Jenn Hagedorn

Jennifer B. Hagedorn is the leader of the Bowles Rice Labor and Employment team. She counsels businesses of all sizes on employment matters involving employee discipline and termination; employment investigations; policies and handbooks; and other general employment advice. She also defends employers in employment litigation involving discrimination, wrongful discharge and harassment. Jennifer is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Questions? Call Jennifer at (724) 514-8940.

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