Pittsburgh paid sick days law to take effect on March 15, 2020 | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh paid sick days law to take effect on March 15, 2020

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court cleared the way for Pittsburgh to institute its long sought after paid sick days legislation.

Today, it was announced that the new law will go into effect on March 15, 2020, in accordance with the city's guidelines being posted and allowing a 90-day period for businesses and organizations to comply.

The ordinance, sponsored by Pittsburgh City Councilor Corey O’Connor (D-Squirrel Hill), required that private employers provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works. Those paid sick hours per employee are then capped at 24 or 40 hours per year, depending on the size of the employer. According to a press release from the office of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, "All employers with 15 or more employees are required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, and those employing less than 15 employees 24 hours of paid sick time" per year.
In July, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the bill, O'Connor tweeted, "This is not a win for politicians. This is a win for workers fighting for economic justice."

That ordinance originally passed in 2015 and was challenged in court by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and several Pittsburgh businesses including Church Brew Works, the Modern Cafe, and Rita’s Italian Ice. The case took years to get to the state's Supreme Court.

The new law applies to businesses within the city of Pittsburgh limits, but also applies to employees who work a number of hours within the city. Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney is a law firm that is working with clients in Pittsburgh to ensure they comply with the paid sick days law. 


Curtis Schaffner of the law firm says that employees that spend at least 35 hours a year working within city limits also qualify for paid sick days. He notes that many delivery truck drivers and taxi drivers will likely qualify for paid sick days, even if the company for which they work lacks a physical presence in Pittsburgh.  


Another wrinkle in the law is how it will affect employees who make minimum wage against tips. Some restaurant and bar workers in Pittsburgh earn the tipped minimum wage, which is $2.83 an hour, and then are allowed to collect tips from customers. (Employers have to make up the difference to an hourly wage of $7.25 if the employee doesn’t make more than that in tips.) 


Because the paid sick day law says employees are to be compensated for their time off at their hourly wage rate, this would be a problem for tipped workers since they can’t collect tips during paid sick days. However, Schaffner says the law requires employees making tipped minimum wage to be compensated at the state minimum wage, which currently matches the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. 


Concerning part-time employees, Schaffner says employers might have questions about exactly how to offer employees paid sick days since their hours tend to be more flexible. He says the law is a bit unclear and employers might believe they need to front-load the capped hours (40 hours a year for employers of 15 employees or greater; 24 hours a year for employers with less than 15 employees).


But Schaffner says the newly released guidelines say employers can calculate paid sick hours for part-time employees merely by following the formula of one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works. 


“For example, if you have a part-time employee that only works five hours a week, then they would only earn 7.5 hours of sick leave per year,” says Schaffner. “The act is not clear, but new guidelines say you can only give the 7.5 hours and not front-load the 24 capped hours.” 

According to the ordinance, about 40 percent of Pittsburgh’s private-sector workers don't have access to paid sick time, including about 77 percent of service workers. People working in the service industry, like restaurants and bars, make up one of the largest percentages of workers in Pittsburgh.

The guidelines to the new law are listed on the City of Pittsburgh's website. Formal comments can be submitted regarding the paid sick days ordinance.