On September 14th, the Allegheny County Council passed a paid sick leave ordinance (Ordinance) to require covered employers to provide paid sick leave (PSL) to their employees. Employees of covered employers will earn at least one (1) hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked within Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. This leave time will be capped at 40 hours per calendar year.
The Ordinance provides that employers’ obligation to provide notice to employees become effective immediately l, while the remaining provisions of the Ordinance take effect on the 90th calendar day following the posting of the official notice and materials for employers by the County. Therefore, since we are still awaiting the County’s direction as of the date of this article it is not currently clear when the additional employer obligations to provide paid sick leave will take effect.
The obligation to provide PSL applies to employees of employers with 26 or more employees. It is not clear whether this employee count threshold is determined by counting employees in Allegheny County only, in all of Pennsylvania, or nationwide. The Ordinance broadly defines employer as “any person, partnership, limited partnership, association, corporation, institution, trust, government body or unit or agency, or any other entity situated doing business within Allegheny County employing one or more persons for a salary, wage, commission, or other compensation.”
Employee is broadly defined under the Ordinance as any individual employed by an employer. Independent contractors, state and federal employees, and seasonal employees are not included in the definition.
Amount of Leave and Accrual Rules
Covered employers must provide their employees one (1) hour of PSL for every thirty-five (35) hours of work completed within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny County. This leave time is capped at forty (40) hours and employees begin accruing leave upon the Ordinance’s effective date, or at the start of their employment, whichever is later.
- Frontloading: As an alternative to providing PSL via accrual, the ordinance permits employers to provide 40 hours of PSL at the beginning of each calendar year.
- Carryover: Amounts of unused PSL is required to carryover to the following year but may be capped at 40. The Ordinance provides that carryover is not required where an employer frontloads 40 hours of PSL at the beginning of each calendar year.
- Waiting Period: Employees can begin using PSL on the 90th calendar day following the commencement of their employment.
- Separation of Employment: Employers are not required to pay out an employee’s accrued, unused PSL upon an employee’s separation from employment.
- Re-hire: If an employee separates from employment and is re-hired within six months by the same employer, previously accrued, unused PSL must be reinstated.
Rate of Pay
Employees must be paid at the same base rate of pay, and with the same benefits, including health care benefits, as an employee would have earned at the time of their use of the PSL.
Qualifying Reasons for Paid Sick Leave
Employees can use accrued PSL for the following qualifying reasons:
- 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;
- 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; or
- 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, or 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.
Under the Ordinance, “family member” includes the following individuals:
- A biological, adopted or foster child, stepchild or legal ward, a child of a domestic partner, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis;
- A biological, foster, adoptive, or step-parent, or legal guardian of an employee or an employee’s spouse or domestic partner or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child;
- A person to whom the employee is legally married under the laws of any state;
- A grandparent or spouse or domestic partner of a grandparent;
- A grandchild;
- A biological, foster, or adopted sibling;
- A domestic partner; or
- Any individual for whom the employee has received permission from the employer to care for at the time of the employee’s request to make use of paid sick time.
Notice Posting Requirements
An employer may require an employee provide reasonable documentation that sick leave was used for a qualifying reason after an absence of three (3) or more full consecutive days. The Ordinance defines “reasonable documentation” as documentation signed by a health care professional indicating that paid sick leave is necessary.
Employers are required to maintain records documenting hours worked and paid sick leave provided to employees for a period of two (2) years.
Interaction with Existing Employer Policies
If the employer already provides at least 40 hours of sick time per year, they are not required to provide additional leave pursuant to this Ordinance as long as:
- The policy provides an amount of paid sick leave sufficient to meet the accrual requirements of the Ordinance; and
- The paid leave may be used for the same qualifying reasons as paid sick leave under the Ordinance.
Interaction with Other Paid Sick Leave Requirements
This Allegheny County PSL Ordinance does not apply to any municipality within the County that has enacted a paid sick leave ordinance as long as the municipality’s ordinance is not less stringent than the requirements of the Allegheny County Ordinance.
The effective date is ninety (90) days after the designated county agency makes employer notice material available through the county website.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Employers who willfully violate this ordinance will be subject to fines or penalties of $100 per offense.
Employers are encouraged to begin preparing for the new PSL requirements under the Ordinance by:
- Reviewing existing leave policies to ensure compliance with the Ordinance and update handbooks and any internal systems as necessary;
- Educate and train human resources and supervisory employees on the new requirements;
- Continue to monitor updates and guidance from the County with respect to the new PSL obligations.
Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical or tax advice. It provides general information and is not intended to encompass all compliance and legal obligations that may be applicable. This information and any questions as to your specific circumstances should be reviewed with your respective legal counsel and/or tax advisor as we do not provide legal or tax advice. Please note that this information may be subject to change based on legislative changes. © 2021 Sequoia Benefits & Insurance Services, LLC. All Rights Reserved