Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Leave Rule Upheld by Pa. Supreme Court

By: Beth Slagle and Elaina Smiley

In a decision that will impact City of Pittsburgh employers, particularly in service industries, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on July 17 reversed a lower court decision and upheld a city ordinance mandating that employers provide paid sick leave to employees who work within the geographical boundaries of the City of Pittsburgh.

Enacted in 2015, the Paid Sick Days Act (PSDA) requires businesses with fewer than 15 employees to provide employees up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year and those employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The PSDA was quickly challenged by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and other local businesses.

Lower courts sided with the businesses, agreeing that the City did not have the authority to enact the rule, but, on appeal, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in the City’s favor. The majority cited a 1955 statute that gives certain municipalities the authority to combat the spread of disease with their own regulations.

“While the PSDA burdens Pittsburgh employers,” the majority opinion says, “it clearly falls within the ambit of the City’s express statutory authority to legislate in furtherance of disease control and prevention.”

The enactment of the PSDA is expected to have a notable and complicated effect on scheduling and guidelines for restaurants and businesses with more fluid employee schedules. According to Jurist.org, 77 percent of the City’s service workers and 40 percent of workers overall did not have paid sick leave previously. It also leaves open the possibility that other cities may enact similar ordinances.

As of today, the City of Pittsburgh has not published a date for when businesses must comply with the ordinance. We will continue to monitor this and keep you informed. In the meantime, we recommend that businesses start looking at the following:

  • Number of employees, working within the City limits, impacted under this ordinance
  • Number of facilities impacted
  • Number of employees who split their work in multiple jurisdictions
  • Current policies on paid leave

For business owners interested in learning more about how this ruling will affect their operations, including how to implement the PSDA in their policies going forward, please contact Beth Slagle at bas@muslaw.com or Elaina Smiley at es@muslaw.com.

This material is for informational purposes only.  It is not and should not be solely relied on as legal advice in dealing with any specific situation.