By: Kimberly J. Kisner, Esq.
On March 9, 2021, Allegheny County Council passed a bill requiring most businesses with 26 or more employees to provide paid sick leave.
The bill was introduced in April 2020, one month following the effective date of the City of Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave law. It now moves to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who is expected to sign the bill.
The bill requires covered employers within the county to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours of sick time per year. Independent contractors, state and federal workers, construction union workers who belong to a collective bargaining unit, and seasonal employees are not covered under the Act.
The county bill is similar but not as generous as the City of Pittsburgh’s paid leave law, which provides one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked regardless of their size. Pittsburgh’s bill was passed in 2015, but did not go into effect until March 2020, after the state Supreme Court dismissed legal challenges in 2019. In addition to its general paid sick leave law, the City of Pittsburgh enacted the COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Act, effective December 8, 2020. The Act, which applies to employers of 50 or more, will be in force until such time as either the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or the City’s State of Emergency related to the global pandemic is lifted.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not currently have a paid sick leave law requirement.
Although 2020’s federal Families First Coronavirus Response (FFCRA) required most employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide emergency paid sick leave and, if applicable, Expanded Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (E-FMLA) for specified reasons related to COVID-19, this obligation lapsed in 2021. Some employers have opted to continue to provide paid pandemic leave as the FFCRA permits employers to continue to claim the provided tax credits (dollar-for-dollar on wages paid to employees taking FFCRA leave) through March 31, 2021 and then resets to provide for additional credits for eligible employers who continue to voluntarily provide the paid leave from April 1, 2021 until September 30, 2021.
If Mr. Fitzgerald signs the county legislation, the county administration will notify employers and develop enforcement regulations which should clarify whether an employer must comply if it already offers an equivalent amount of other forms of paid leave. The bill would go into effect 90 days after Mr. Fitzgerald signs it unless Council is challenged in court for exceeding its authority under its Home Rule Charter.
If you have questions regarding Allegheny County’s Paid Sick Leave or any other employment-related legal matter, please contact Leech Tishman’s Employment & Labor Practice Group.
Kimberly J. Kisner is a Partner with Leech Tishman, and a member of the firm’s Employment & Labor Group. Kimberly is based out of the Pittsburgh office and can be reached at 412.261.1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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