Allegheny County Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday, September 14, requiring most private employers with 26 or more employees to provide employees with as many as five (5) paid sick days per year. The sick leave bill, revised after County Executive Rich Fitzgerald vetoed it in March due to procedural deficiencies, guarantees both full and part-time employees one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, with a cap at 40 hours per calendar year unless the employer allows for additional accrual.
The legislation, expected to be signed by Fitzgerald, allow employees to use sick time to care for themselves or a sick family member or to be paid when the employee’s place of business, child’s school, or child care provider is closed by order of a public official due to public health emergency. The law will not cover seasonal employees, state and federal employees, or independent contractors. Employers who meet or exceed the requirements of the county’s sick leave law through their own internal policies or collective bargaining agreements do not need to provide additional leave under this new law as long as the paid leave can be used under the same conditions and for the same purposes.
The legislation will take effect 90 days after signed into law and employers are required to provide written notice to employees of their paid leave rights. Employees must work 90 days before they can begin to use accrued leave. Employers are not required to pay out unused sick leave at termination. Employees who are rehired within six (6) months of termination shall have their accrued sick leave reinstated upon re-commencement of employment. Employers who violate the policy can be fined by the County up to $100 per occurrence and may also subject themselves to unwanted attention and scrutiny.
Allegheny County’s sick leave law comes a year and a half after it was first proposed and following paid sick leave laws enacted in the city of Pittsburgh in 2020 and 2021. On Tuesday, July 27, 2021, Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation requiring businesses with 50 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to employees for COVID-19 convalescence, care or quarantine. The law took effect immediately and remains in effect for 365 days. COVID-19 paid leave legislation was initially passed in December 2020 when the requirement to provide paid leave under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was expiring.
The city’s 2015 sick leave law took effect on March 15, 2020, after the city’s authority to pass such a law was challenged in court. The law requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year and those with fewer than 15 employees 24 hours of sick leave each year.
Neither county nor city leave laws will provide any tax incentives for employers for providing sick leave. Although the mandate to provide leave under FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020, employers who voluntarily provide paid leave under FFCRA are entitled to take tax credits extended through The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) through at least September 30, 2021. With the federal announcement of a vaccine mandate for employers of 100 or more, Congress may revisit extending additional tax relief to employers who provide employees time off for COVID-19 testing, illness, or vaccination.
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.
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