In 2015, the City of Pittsburgh enacted the Paid Sick Days Act (the “Act”), requiring all private employers of full or part-time employees within the City of Pittsburgh to provide paid sick leave benefits as follows:
• Employers with 15 or more employees must provide workers with up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
• Employers with fewer than 15 employees must provide workers with up to 24 hours of sick time per year. This requirement may be unpaid for the first year after the Act becomes effective. The sick time must be paid time after the first year.
There are exclusions:
• State and federal employees
• Independent contractors
• Construction union members covered by a collective bargaining agreement
• Seasonal employees (those working 16 weeks or less who are told their start and end dates when that are first hired.)
The act was supposed to take effect in 2016. However, a series of court challenges initially invalidated the Act and ultimately the validity of the Act was brought to the attention of the PA Supreme Court.
On July 17, 2019, the PA Supreme Court reinstated the Act.
What does this mean for Pittsburgh employers?
Employers should consider the Act as being in effect. Prior to the lower court rulings, the City posted notice and promulgated rules, meeting the requirements for the effectiveness of the Act. While retroactive application is unlikely, employers should consider the Act reinstated and in effective now.
Given the recent developments impacting the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act, it is critical that employers with Pittsburgh-based employees immediately review their policies and practices for compliance with their obligations under the Act. There are also additional provisions to consider beyond the general paid sick time requirements:
• Employees must accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked. For non-exempt employees, accrual calculations must account for all hours worked including overtime hours. For exempt employees, accrual calculations must be based on an assumed 40-hour workweek or, if the exempt employee’s normal workweek is less than 40 hours, the lesser number of hours in that exempt employee’s normal workweek.
• Employees cannot be required to use paid sick time in time increments greater than one hour, but employers can require that they use paid sick time in a smaller increment that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time.
• Employers must allow employees to carry over accrued, unused paid sick time from year to year, but employees are not entitled to use more than 40 hours (or 24 hours if employed by a small employer) per year. Alternatively, an employer can prohibit or restrict carry over if the employer “front loads” paid sick time by permitting employees to use at least 40 hours (or 24 hours if employed by a small employer) of paid sick time at the beginning of each calendar year.
• Employers are not required to pay employees for accrued, unused sick time at the time of separation.
• Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under the Acts.
• Employers must provide written notice to employees of their right to accrue and use paid sick time, the amount to which they are entitled, the terms under which paid sick time can be used, the prohibition against retaliation, their right to file a complaint with the City regarding suspected violations of the Act, and to generally post a written notice published by the City regarding the Acts (which is similar to equal employment opportunity and other mandatory notice postings).
• Employers keep records of the hours worked and sick time taken by its employees and maintain those records for a period of two years. Importantly, failure to comply with these record keeping requirements creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer violated the law, which can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence of compliance.
Keep in mind that the Act establish minimums. Any employer whose existing paid leave policy provides the functional equivalent or greater benefits or protections will be in compliance with the Act.
The Act will impact employers in ways large and small. We again urge all employers with Pittsburgh-based employees to immediately review their policies and practices to ensure they are in compliance.