By: Julie A. Aquino, Esq. and Jonathan F. Whalen, Esq.
Published on: Wed 29th Dec, 2021 By: Campbell Durrant, P.C.
As of December 15, 2021, Allegheny County’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance went into effect, which requires employers that employ twenty-six (26) or more employees, situated in or doing business in Allegheny County, to provide their employees with one (1) hour of paid sick leave for every thirty-five (35) hours worked within Allegheny County, up to a maximum of forty (40) hours in a calendar year, unless the employer designates a higher amount. The Ordinance applies to local government employers, as well as private sector employers, and covers both full-time and part-time employees, but not seasonal employees or independent contractors.
Employers with a paid leave policy or collective bargaining agreement that makes available an amount of paid sick leave sufficient to meet the requirements of the Ordinance are not required to provide additional paid sick time. However, the paid leave provided under such policy or labor contract must be available to be used “for the same purposes and under the same conditions” as under the Ordinance. Paid sick time under the Ordinance must be available for use in one (1) hour increments, and cannot be conditioned upon an employee obtaining a replacement. Notably, even if your policy or labor contract provides no paid sick time to part-time employees, those part-time employees begin to accrue paid sick hours under the Ordinance, effective December 15, 2021, at a rate of one (1) hour for every thirty-five (35) hours worked and up to forty (40) hours per calendar year.
New employees accrue paid sick time under the Ordinance upon the start of their employment, but the employer can restrict usage of such leave until the ninetieth (90) calendar day following the start date. Employers may “front-load” paid sick time. Carry over is provided for under the Ordinance, but it never entitles an employee to more than forty (40) hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year, and the Ordinance does not require payment at separation. Remote work and/or telework performed outside of the County’s geographic boundaries does not count toward accrual.
Accrued paid sick hours must be available for the following purposes under the Ordinance:
1. An employee's mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; an employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; an employee’s need for preventive medical care;
2. Care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; care of a family member who needs preventive medical care;
3. Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
4. Care for a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member’s exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the family member has actually contracted the communicable disease.
Employers are permitted under the Ordinance to require “reasonable documentation” if the use of paid sick time lasts three (3) or more “full consecutive days,” and are permitted to maintain an absence notification policy dictating how soon before an employee’s shift the employer must be notified of the need to use paid sick time. Such notification policy must be “reasonable” and not “obstruct” an employee’s use of paid sick time, and if an employer does not have a notification policy, the ordinance states that employees should notify their employer at least one (1) hour prior to the start of their shift (and employees shall “make a good faith effort to notify the employer as soon as possible” of the need to take unforeseeable sick hours). Where the use of paid sick hours is foreseeable, such as pre-scheduled doctor’s appointments, employers may require up to seven days advance notice.
Employers must provide a conspicuous written notice to their employees of their rights under the Ordinance, which employers can download from the County’s website: https://alleghenycounty.us/administrative/paid-sick-leave.aspx. Employers must also retain records documenting hours worked by employees and paid sick time taken by employees for a period of two years. The Ordinance contains anti-retaliation measures and creates causes of action for alleged violations, and it appears that the County does not plan to issue fines to employers for violations during the first year of enforcement.
For employers in Allegheny County that already provide the required amount of sick hours, the new County Ordinance may not entail numerous changes to your policies or labor contracts. However, consider whether you currently provide paid sick hours to part-time employees, and whether you allow for the use of paid sick time in increments as small as one hour and under all of the circumstances set forth in the Ordinance, such as for business and school closure and for care of a “family member” (a term that is defined in the Ordinance). If your collective bargaining agreements or personnel policies do not satisfy all of the requirements described above, this new Ordinance will require adjustments to reflect compliance. The attorneys at Campbell Durrant are available to assist employers situated in Allegheny County with compliance with the new County Ordinance.
• Allegheny County’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance was signed into law on September 15th, 2021, and officially went into effect on December 15th, 2021. The Ordinance requires covered employers to provide for the accrual of up to forty (40) hours of paid sick time to both full-time and part-time employees.
• The paid sick time provided by the Ordinance can be used for an employee’s illness, medical appointments or medical treatment, or the illness, medical appointment or medical treatment of a family member, or in situations of school/business closure. This paid sick time must accrue at a rate of at least one (1) hour per every thirty-five (35) hours worked in Allegheny County, must be available for use in one (1) hour increments, and can be used by employees on fairly minimal notice, and without the need for employees to find a replacement worker.
• Employers who already provide paid sick leave or other paid leave pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or personnel policy are not obligated to provide additional leave by virtue of the Ordinance, provided that the paid leave provided by such employers can be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as paid sick time provided by the Ordinance.
• Employers must provide conspicuous written notice to employees, on forms provided by the County, of their rights under the Ordinance.