Allegheny County adopted legislation guaranteeing employees at companies that have 26 or more employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, with a cap at 40 hours.
The sick leave bill has taken a few twists and turns. A sick leave mandate was passed by Council in March but was vetoed by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald voiced concerns about the legality of the legislation since it originated in Council instead of the County Health Department. Over the summer, the County Health Department passed the legislation, which is materially similar to the vetoed legislation. On September 8, the Committee on Health approved the bill, paving the way for a vote in County Council on September 14. On September 15, 2021, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed the legislation.
Key provisions of the new law include:
- Covered Employers: The new requirements cover employers who have 26 or more employees in Allegheny County, including both part-time and full-time employees,
- Use: Eligible employees can use sick time for an employee’s or family member’s illness, injury or health condition; need for diagnosis, care, treatment or preventive care; closure of the employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency; the employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to a public health emergency; or care for a family member when the family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member’s exposure to a communicable disease.
- Accrual Rate: Employees accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to a cap of 40 hours. In lieu of tracking the accrual, employers can credit employees with the full 40 hours on January 1 of each year.
- Eligible Employees: Employees can begin using sick time beginning on the 90th calendar day following the commencement of their employment. Current employees begin accruing time as of the effective date of the ordinance. The legislation does not apply to independent contractors, state and federal workers, or seasonal employees.
- Carry Over: Accrued sick leave may be carried over to the following calendar year unless employer provides at least 40 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each calendar year.
- Medical Documentation: An employer may require the employee to provide reasonable documentation regarding the use of sick time if the leave lasts three or more consecutive days.
- Employee Notice Obligations: An employee must provide a request to the employer upon the use of paid sick leave time. The request should include the anticipated duration of the absence when possible. An employer is permitted to maintain a reasonable notification policy. An employer may not require that an employee making use of accrued sick time search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using sick time as a condition for providing said sick time.
- Employer Notice Obligations: An employer is required to provide notice of the sick leave mandate to their employees.
- Effective Date: Employers are immediately required to provide written notice that employees will be entitled to paid sick time, the amount of paid sick time, the terms of its use, that retaliation for the exercise of rights under the ordinance is prohibited and that employees have a right to file a complaint with the County agency designated to enforce the ordinance. The remaining provisions of the ordinance will take effect 90 days after the County promulgates the materials necessary for employers to comply with the ordinance. When promulgated, the materials will be made available to employers through the County website.
- Penalties for Non-Compliance: Employers who violate the sick leave mandate may be subject to civil fines.
Covered employers should work with experienced employment counsel to develop a policy or revise their existing paid time off policy to account for the requirements of the ordinance and notify employees of their rights under the ordinance.