On August, 3, 2015, Pittsburgh City Council, by a 7-1 vote, passed an Ordinance entitled the "Paid Sick Days Act" (the Ordinance), which requires that all employers provide paid sick leave for employees who work within the City. The Ordinance does not become effective until the Mayor signs it, which is expected to occur soon, and then it still will not apply until 90 days after the Office of Controller, or another Department designated by the Mayor, passes regulations required under the Ordinance. In the meantime, it has been reported that there may be legal challenges to the Ordinance. Here are some of the highlights of the Ordinance:
- The Ordinance requires employers with 15 or more employees (regardless of how many work in the City) to provide one hour of paid sick leave at the employee's base pay rate, for every 35 hours that the employee works in the City, up to a maximum of 40 hours. For employers with less than 15 employees, the same obligations apply, except that the maximum hours that can be accrued is 24, and during the first year the Ordinance is in effect, the hours can be unpaid.
- The Ordinance applies to all employees, including those who are exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (such employees are assumed to work 40 hours per week for purposes of accruing sick leave).
- Sick leave can be carried over from year to year, up to the 40 or 24 hour maximum, unless the employer has a policy which provides employees with at least that much time off at the beginning of the year that can be used for sick leave consistent with the Ordinance.
- Sick leave can be used for the diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical ailment or for preventative care of the employee, a family member (defined to include child, parent, spouse, sibling and grand-parent or grand-child, including biological, adopted, foster or step children, legal ward or someone who stands in a loco parentis relationship; a biological, foster or adopted sibling; a domestic partner of the parent or grandparent; and a spouse whose marriage is legally recognized in any state); or where the employee or child's business or school is closed for health reasons or to care for a family member whose health condition could jeopardize the community.
- Employees can take the sick time after being employed for 90 calendar days and can take the leave in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment used to account for absences or use of other time.
- Employers can adopt reasonable policies regarding when the employee can take sick leave and can require documentation regarding the leave for absence that lasts three or more days, provided the documentation need not require an explanation of the precise nature of the illness. In the absence of a written policy, the employee can give one hour's advance oral notice, although the employee is supposed to make a reasonable effort to schedule sick leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employers.
- Where an employer already has a policy or contract, including a collective bargaining agreement, that provides paid time off that can be used in the same manner as that provided by the Ordinance, the employer can apply those days against the 40 or 24 hour requirements; however, if the current policy or contract contains use restrictions that are more narrow than permitted by the Ordinance, the employer must separately award the employee sick time.
- Employers must provide notice to their employees regarding the Ordinance's requirements, which prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees who request or use sick leave and requires employers to maintain documentation related to sick leave for two years.
No action needs to be taken now, and it has been reported that legal action will be filed to block implementation of the Ordinance. In the meantime, employers who have employees that work within the City of Pittsburgh should review their paid time off policies to determine whether they will need to be amended or adjusted to comply with the Ordinance, if and when it becomes effective.