Updated: Dec 15, 2021
History of the Paid Sick Leave Bill
On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, the Allegheny County Council unanimously passed a paid sick leave bill. The County Sick Leave Bill was first proposed nearly a year and a half ago and was passed in March 2021 by a Council vote of 15-4. However, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald vetoed the Bill on the basis that the County’s Board of Health must first approve regulations before they are passed by the County Council. In July, the County Health Board passed the regulation that largely included the provisions that were previously accepted by the Council.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s statistics from 2019 show that there are 33,731 employer establishments in Allegheny County. Of that, nearly 18% of those employ 20 or more employees. The Census Bureau does not show an exact figure on how many establishments employ 26 employees or more. Therefore, it is safe to assume that a large number of County businesses will be affected by this mandate.
What the Bill Provides for Employees
The Paid Sick Leave Bill will apply to County businesses that employ 26 or more employees. The big question regarding the Bill is what employees count towards that 26-employee figure? The Bill itself states an employee will be defined in the same manner is defined in the Labor Section of the Pennsylvania code. This section of the code defines employees as “any individual employed by an employer.” However, the Bill excludes independent contractors, state and federal workers, and seasonal employees from the calculation of the size of a business’s workforce. Based on a cursory interpretation, an employer will need to count all persons they employ that do not fall into one of the above categories.
A previously passed bill already requires Employers operating within the City of Pittsburgh to provide employees with a guaranteed five (5) days of paid sick leave. Those employers operating outside the City of Pittsburgh, but within Allegheny County, must implement policies wherein employees shall accrue at least one (1) hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked. The accrual of paid sick time is capped at 40 hours in a calendar year unless more is authorized by the employer. Employees may carry over paid sick time to the following calendar year, so long as the paid sick time does not exceed 40 hours. An employee may use this paid sick time to care for themselves or for the care of a family member. Employees are not eligible to use this paid time off until their 90th day of employment.
What the Bill Requires of Employers
The Bill mandates that employers provide several benefits to employees, but also requires employers to implement systems to support those benefits as well. First and foremost, employers are required to inform their employees of the benefits this Bill provides if it is applicable to the company. To make use of this provided time, employees are required to file a “request for leave.”
This request is to include the anticipated duration of the leave. Employers may implement their own policy that establishes how soon before an employee’s shift they must notify the employer of their absence. The default established by the Bill is one (1) hour prior to the beginning of an employee’s shift. The notification policy must be deemed reasonable and cannot inhibit an employee’s use of their sick leave. A policy will be deemed reasonable based on a variety of factors including the industry standard, shift time and length, company size, etc. However, if an employee’s request for paid leave will be three (3) days or longer, an employer can request documentation evidencing that the sick leave is being used appropriately.
Employers are also required to maintain a record-keeping procedure under this Bill. The employer must now retain records of both the documented hours worked by an employee and also a record of any paid sick time taken. These records must be kept by the employer for a period of at least two years. Violations of any provision of this Bill may result in fines of $100 per violation.
What This Means for Your Business
If your business meets the criteria of this Bill and employs 26 or more employees, then you should read the provisions of the Bill below. It is a good idea to review your current sick leave or PTO policies, if you have one in place, to see if it meets the requirements of the Bill. Employers should begin planning to either implement a new policy or overhaul their current one to make sure it is compliant. It is important to reiterate that employers must make this new policy known to their employees, and also inform them of the company’s individual notification procedure. Businesses should also verify that their record-keeping procedures are adequate to meet the requirements of the Bill.
There are various nuances in this Bill that may affect your company, but Fiffik Law Group is able to help you analyze your current procedures to make sure they are compliant and offer advice on any updates that may be necessary. We are constantly monitoring for developments on the situation and will provide updates as they arise.