Employment Law Update: Pittsburgh Sick Days Act Takes Effect March 15, 2020

By Catherine Loeffler

The Pittsburgh Sick Days Act (the "Act"), codified in Pittsburgh City Code as Chapter 626, takes effect on March 15, 2020 (the "Effective Date"). It applies to all employees who work within the geographical limits of the City of Pittsburgh, except it does not apply to independent contractors, State or Federal employees, members of a union covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or seasonal employees. The Act requires that employers located within City geographical limits give workers a minimum of one hour paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours per year for employers with 15 or more employees, or a cap of 24 hours per year for employers with one to 14 employees. An employee who works for an employer located outside the geographic boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh but who performs work within the City is a Covered Employee once the employee performs at least 35 hours of work within the geographic boundaries of the City in a calendar year.

For FLSA-exempt employees, sick time will accrue based on a normal 40-hour work week, unless the normal work week is less than 40 hours, in which case time will accrue based on the normal work week. Employees can use their accrued sick time once they have at least 90 days of service with the employer. The Act does not require employers to pay employees for unused sick days at the end of employment, but employees rehired within 6 months get their prior unused sick leave reinstated.

Employers who already provide paid time off benefits ("PTO") are in compliance if they provide at least as much paid time off as is available under this Act. The Act also allows employees to use paid sick time to care for an ill family member (immediate family & step-family, including domestic partner, along with grandparent and grandchild). The paid sick time can be taken in hourly increments, or smaller increments if the employer's pay system uses smaller increments. Employers may require a doctor's note or other reasonable documentation for sick time lasting three or more consecutive full work days. This implies that an employer cannot ask for a doctor's note for a shorter absence; but, that may well be a subject of future litigation. An employer may not require disclosure of details relating to an employee's or an employee's family member's medical condition as a condition of providing paid sick time under this Act. An employer must treat as confidential any health information about an employee or an employee's family member and not disclose it, except to the affected employee or with the written permission of the affected employee per applicable Federal and State medical privacy laws.

Employers are now mandated to display a notice at each worksite in a conspicuous place informing employees that the Act entitles them to sick time, the amount of sick time, the terms of its use, that retaliation against employees who request or use sick time is prohibited, and that each employee has the right to file a complaint with the Mayor's Office of Equity ("MOE") if sick time is denied by the employer or the employee is retaliated against for requesting or taking sick time. A copy of the recommended Notice to Employees is attached. Complaints of violations of the Act may be filed with the MOE within six months of the violation. An employer that willfully violates the notice requirements of this Act is subject to a civil fine of up to $100 for each offense. Employers must make and keep for two years a record of employee's hours and sick time taken. Guidelines promulgated by the City of Pittsburgh to assist employers with the implementation of the Act can be found at http://paidsickleave.pittsburghpa.gov.

If you have any questions about the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act or any other aspect of employment law, please contact the author of this update, Catherine Loeffler, or Craig Brooks, of Houston Harbaugh.