Pittsburgh’s Paid Sick Days Act (PSDA) goes into effect on March 15, 2020, just as the number of coronavirus/COVID-19 infections has begun to increase in the U.S. The new law mandates a number of requirements for employers operating in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The following are some of the highlights of the law about which employers should be aware:

Who is covered by PSDA?

All employers located or doing business in the city of Pittsburgh that employ one or more persons are covered by the PSDA. Employees are eligible to earn sick leave under the PSDA if they perform at least 35 hours of work within the city in a calendar year. This includes employees working for employers located outside the city but who perform work within the city. In that case, only the hours worked within the city will be used to calculate whether the employee is eligible under the PSDA and the amount of accrued sick leave.

However, “employee” does not include independent contractors, state or federal employees, construction workers covered by a union collective bargaining unit or seasonal employees. The PSDA defines “seasonal employee” as a person hired for a temporary period of no more than 16 weeks in a calendar year and who is notified at the time of hire that the employment is limited by the applicable seasonal period.

How much leave do employees receive?

For employers with 15 or more employees, eligible employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked in Pittsburgh, up to 40 hours per calendar year. Employees of employers with 15 or more employees are not permitted to access more than 40 hours of paid sick leave, which effectively caps use at 40 hours per year.

For employers with fewer than 15 employees, eligible employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours working in Pittsburgh. Until March 15, 2021, eligible employees may accrue up to 24 hours of unpaid sick leave. Beginning March 15, 2021, eligible employees of employers with fewer than 15 employees may accrue up to 24 hours of paid sick leave. Employees of employers with fewer than 15 employees are not permitted to access more than 24 hours of sick leave, which effectively caps use at 24 hours per year.

All employees are eligible to use sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day of employment. All employees may carry over their accrued, unused sick leave up to the applicable accrual cap into the following calendar year, unless the employer provides the requisite amount of sick leave at the beginning of the calendar year.

Employers, regardless of size, are not required to pay out any accrued, unused sick leave upon separation of employment. However, if the employee is rehired within six months of separation, any previously accrued sick leave must be reinstated and the employee is entitled to use and accrue additional sick leave at the time he or she recommences employment.

What are the permissible uses of sick leave?

Employees may use sick leave for the diagnosis, care or treatment of the employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or that of a family member, for preventive medical care for the employee or a family member; or for certain public health emergencies.

For purposes of the PSDA, “family member” includes children, parents, a person to whom the employee is legally married, grandparents or spouse or domestic partner of a grandparent, a grandchild, siblings, domestic partners, or any person for whom the employee received oral permission from his or her employer to care for at the time of the employee’s request for sick leave.

What are the notice requirements?

Employers may require employees to provide up to seven days advance notice of the need to use sick leave when the need is foreseeable. If the need for sick leave is not foreseeable, employees must make a good faith effort to notify the employer as soon as possible. If an employee uses three or more full consecutive days of sick leave, the employer may require reasonable documentation that the leave has been used appropriately under the PSDA.

Employers must display a poster in English, Spanish, and any other primary languages of employees giving notice of their rights to sick leave under the PSDA. The city of Pittsburgh published a model notice; you may find it here.

No retaliation

Employers are prohibited from interfering with or denying an employee’s right to request or use sick leave under the PSDA. Further, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for requesting or using sick leave, filing a complaint, or informing other persons of their rights under the law. An employer’s absence control policy should not consider any sick leave absence under the PSDA as a basis for issuing discipline to the employee.

Similar to other state and local sick leave laws, employers should not force employees to use their leave. Doing so may be interference with the employee’s right to use sick leave. This means that even if an employee is quarantined for coronavirus/COVID-19, employers should not automatically deduct from the employee’s sick leave balance – let the employee decide whether he or she wants to use available leave.

Next steps

Man works to meet the filing deadline

Employers in Pittsburgh should review their leave policies and revise if necessary to comply with the PSDA. Multi-state employers should also be aware of similar state and local paid leave laws in Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.