With the spread of the deadly Delta variant of the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) and nationwide concerns about stagnating vaccination rates, 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 takes effect immediately and will remain in place for 365 days.
COVID-19 paid leave legislation was initially passed in December 2020 when the requirement to provide paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was expiring. The City’s law as written expired July 7, 2021, one week following the end of Pennsylvania’s state-declared emergency. We previously discussed some of the FFCRA updates since 2020 in this client alert.
According to the legislation’s guidelines, employees at workplaces with 50 or more employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time if they are self-isolating due to COVID-19 exposure, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, quarantining at the direction of their doctor, employer, or a public health authority, or caring for a quarantining or ill family member. Employees who work less than forty hours per week shall be allowed an amount of time equal to the average hours worked by that employee in a 14-day period.
Although there are no accrual requirements, employees must work at least 90 days before they are eligible for paid COVID-19 sick leave. Employers are not required to pay out unused COVID-19 sick leave at termination.
COVID-19 sick leave under the new law is in addition to the paid sick time required by the city’s 2015 sick leave law, which 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.
Unlike FFCRA, the city law does not provide any tax incentives for employers for providing COVID-19 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. Employers who meet or exceed the requirements of the city’s COVID-19 sick leave law through voluntary FFCRA participation or their own internal policies do not need to provide additional leave under this new law as long as that policy was enacted after March 13, 2020, and that policy provides for additional time off due specifically to COVID-related instances.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not currently have a paid sick leave requirement for any illness. Earlier this year, Allegheny County Council passed general sick leave legislation which was vetoed by the County Executive for procedural deficiencies and referred to the County Health Department. After the County Health Department develops proposed regulations and initiates the legislation, county-mandated sick leave legislation is likely to resurface later this year.
If you have questions regarding the City of Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Leave or any other employment-related legal matter, please contact Leech Tishman’s Employment & Labor Practice Group.
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Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in business restructuring & insolvency, corporate matters, employment & labor, estates & trusts, intellectual property, litigation & alternative dispute resolution, and real estate. In addition, the firm offers a wide range of legal services to clients in the aviation & aerospace, cannabis, construction, energy & natural resources, healthcare, and hospitality industries. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota and Wilmington, DE.