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Pittsburgh City Council Passes Paid Sick Leave Bill on Monday, August 3, 2015

On Monday, August 3, Pittsburgh joined Philadelphia as the state’s second city to require employers to offer paid sick time to its workers. Less than a month after co-sponsors introduced a paid sick leave bill for consideration, the City Council passed an amended version amid threats of court challenges from small businesses.

Though no federal laws carry this mandate, cities in other states such as California, Seattle, and Connecticut have adopted similar measures.

The bill sponsor is Councilman Corey O’Connor of District 5, whose family has been in the restaurant business. Other sponsors are Bruce Kraus, Ricky Burgess, Natalia Rudiak, and Deb Gross, the bill’s core group of support in the nine-member Council. Darlene Harris abstained on the vote, saying she doubted that Council had the authority to pass the measure. Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle was the lone vote against the bill; he cited the opposition of small businesses in his district.

The bill is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the city publishes regulations for implementing the measure. (A publication date is unknown as of this writing.)

The bill includes the following provisions:

• Firms with 15 or more employees must allow them to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh, for a maximum of 40 paid sick hours per year, unless the employer offers more. (The accrual rate in the first version was one hour every 30 hours, with a maximum of 72 hours.)

• Firms with fewer than 15 employees must offer the same rate of sick hour accrual for hours worked in Pittsburgh; however, they have reduced obligations. For one year after the effective date of the ordinance, they must offer sick leave, but it can be unpaid and the requirement is capped at 24 hours. After one year, these firms must offer up to 24 paid sick hours, unless the employer offers more. (The first version of the bill did not have provisions for firms with fewer than 15 employees.)

• Use of sick time can begin after an employee has been employed by an employer for 90 days. (The first version provided for sick time accrual at the commencement of employment.)

• Employers may require documentation for absences of three or more consecutive days. (The first version included this employer option after three consecutive days.)

• Employers are permitted to maintain their own sick time notification policies specifying how soon before an employee’s shift the employee must request paid sick time. (The first version did not contain this provision.)

• Employers must document sick time taken by employees for a period of two years and allow access to sick day records for enforcement purposes.

• Non-compliant employers are subject to fines of $100 for each separate offense as well as restitution of lost wages; employers are also permitted to take disciplinary action per the employer’s policies.

Other measures provide that:

• Employers in the City who already offer paid leave equal to that required by the new law are not obligated to provide additional paid sick leave.

• For purposes of the ordinance, “employee” does not include independent contractors, State and Federal employees, any member of a construction union covered by a collective bargaining unit, or seasonal employees. (Seasonal employees are not mentioned in the first version.)

Other provisions address confidentiality, outreach and enforcement, and conditions for use of sick time.

If your business is affected by this legislation and would like to engage Leech Tishman to assist in expressing your concerns to City Council, please contact Steve Irwin in the Government Relations Practice Group at sirwin@leechtishman.com or 412.261.1600.

Leech Tishman is a firm dedicated to providing full-service commercial legal services to individuals, businesses, and institutions. We combine a deep understanding of our clients and their businesses with skilled legal counsel to find solutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in alternative dispute resolution, bankruptcy & creditors’ rights, construction, corporate, employee benefits, employment, energy, environmental, safety & toxic torts, estates & trusts, government relations, immigration, insurance coverage & corporate risk mitigation, intellectual property, international legal matters, litigation, real estate, and taxation. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Wilmington, DE. For more information call 412.261.1600 or visit us at www.leechtishman.com.

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