Allegheny County Council in Pennsylvania recently passed an ordinance (the “Ordinance”) requiring certain employers in Allegheny County to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave (“PSL”).
Employers covered under the Ordinance include most entities situated or doing business within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny County with 26 or more employees. When calculating the number of employees, employers should count all employees regardless of their work location, even outside of Allegheny County. However, owners are excluded from this calculation.
Full-time and part-time employees who work at least 35 hours in a calendar year within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny County of all covered employers are subject to the Ordinance. Independent contractors, state and federal employees, members of a construction labor union covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and seasonal workers are excluded.
The Ordinance became effective on December 15, 2021 and is currently in effect. However, enforcement of the Ordinance, including any fines for violations, is delayed for one year until December 15, 2022.
Use of Paid Sick Leave
PSL may be used by an employee for any of the following reasons:
- An employee's mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for preventative care, diagnosis, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;
- Care of an employee’s family member1 with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for preventative care, diagnosis, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition care;
- Closure of the employee's place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
- 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;
- 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.
Accrual of Paid Sick Leave, Front-loading & Carryover Rules
Employees accrue one hour of PSL for every 35 hours worked within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny County up to a maximum of 40 hours of PSL per calendar year. An employee may begin using accrued paid sick time on the 90th calendar day following date of hire.
Employers must permit employees to carryover any accrued, unused PSL from one calendar year to the next, up to a maximum of 40 hours. If an employer front-loads 40 PSL hours for employers at the beginning of the calendar year, carryover of accrued, unused PSL is not required.
Employee Notice to Employer
Employees can notify their employer of the need for use of PSL in accordance with their employer’s existing notification policy for paid time off. In the absence of an employer notification policy and when the need for PSL is foreseeable, employers can require their employees to notify them up to seven days in advance if possible, or at the very least, one hour before their shift begins. When the need for PSL is not foreseeable by the employee, the employee must notify the employer as soon as possible.
For PSL that lasts three or more consecutive days, an employer may require the employee to provide reasonable documentation from a health care provider confirming that PSL was used for qualifying purposes. However, employers cannot require documentation with specific medical or illness details of the employee or employee’s family member. As with all health-related employee information, any documentation received by the employer for PSL use must be kept confidential and securely stored.
Employers are prohibited from requiring an employee using PSL to find a replacement worker for coverage.
Rate of Pay
Employees must be paid for PSL at their base rate of pay with the same benefits, including health care benefits, that they receive when working. For tipped or commission employees, the rate of pay for PSL purposes is the minimum hourly rate for hours worked under Pennsylvania minimum wage laws.
Payout upon Employment Termination/Reinstatement upon Rehire
Employers are not required to pay out an employee’s accrued, unused PSL upon termination from employment but may choose to do so. If a terminated employee is rehired within six months by the same employer, previously accrued, unused PSL must be reinstated and available for use at the time of rehire.
If an employer does choose to pay out an employee’s accrued, unused PSL upon termination and the employee is rehired within six months after having received a payout, PSL that was paid out upon termination is not required to be reinstated.
Existing Paid Time Off Policies
Employers with existing policies that provide an amount of paid time off that meets or exceeds the PSL requirements and covered reasons are not required to provide additional paid time off.
Employer Notice & Recordkeeping Requirements
Employers must provide notice of PSL entitlement, amount and rights to employees by conspicuously posting it in the workplace or distributing it electronically for remote workers. A sample copy of the notice issued by Allegheny County can be accessed here and is required to be provided in English, Spanish and any other primary languages of the employees at the particular worksite.
Employers are advised to provide employees with notification of available PSL balances on pay stubs or in an online tracking system regularly accessed by employees.
Employers are required to maintain records relating to the employee PSL use for two years.
Interaction with Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Regulations
PSL does not apply to municipalities in Allegheny County, such as Pittsburgh, that have enacted a paid sick leave law that meets or exceeds the PSL Ordinance requirements. Pittsburgh employers that are already complying with the City of Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act are also most likely complying with the PSL Ordinance for Allegheny County.
- Revise leave policies: Determine if existing leave policies satisfy the PSL requirements. If not, revise leave policies to ensure compliance with PSL requirements under the Ordinance.
- Leave tracking processes: Ensure leave tracking systems and processes are updated for PSL compliance purposes.
- Notice distribution: Distribute the PSL notice (accessed here) to all employees at the worksite by posting in an accessible and conspicuous location or distribute electronically for remote workers.
Risk Strategies will continue to monitor developments in this area and work diligently to provide our clients with the most up-to-date information.
1 Family member means:
- 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 parent, 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 spouse or domestic partner;
- A grandparent or spouse or domestic partner of a grandparent;
- A grandchild;
- A sibling; 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