In September 2021, the Allegheny County Council passed an ordinance compelling employers with 26 or more employees to provide their workers with paid sick leave1. Although the rule took effect on December 15, 2021, fines and penalties for failing to adapt to the new rule will not be levied against employers until one year following the effective date (December 15, 2022).
Full-time and part-time employees located or working in Allegheny County are eligible for paid sick leave; however, seasonal workers2 and independent contractors are not. Employees3 covered under the rule will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked in the county. A single employee can only accrue up to 40 hours per calendar year. If an employee has not used all accrued hours by the end of the year, that time will roll over to the following year. However, no employee can accrue more than the 40-hour cap, including any time rolled over from the prior year. Employers that have a paid time off or paid sick leave policy in place do not have to change their policy, so long as that policy meets or exceeds these requirements.
Paid sick time may be used on the 90th day after the employee begins his or her employment. Employees are allowed to utilize their paid sick time, either in the smallest increment used by their employer’s payroll structure or hourly, whichever is smaller. The rule provides for a handful of circumstances in which the paid sick time can be utilized, including illness, canceled childcare or care for other family members.
Employers are allowed, but not required, to develop a notice policy for anticipated events stating how far in advance employees need to inform the employer before using paid sick leave. If the event is unexpected or unforeseeable, the employee should provide notice to his or her employer as soon as possible. Employers may ask for reasonable documentation showing that the paid sick time off was for a reason within the scope of the rule only if the absence is beyond three days. However, this documentation does not have to include the nature or details of the employee’s or an employee’s family member issue or illness.
Employers must dispense the employee’s usual salary and benefits during paid sick leave. Employees who rely on commissions or tips cannot receive payment for potential tips or commissions that may have occurred while they were on paid sick leave, but these employees must receive at least minimum wage. At the end of an individual’s employment, he/she is not entitled to receive payment for any accrued paid sick time that he/she did not use during his/her employment.
Employers are responsible under the rule to find different or additional personnel to cover the hours in which an employee is using paid sick time, and paid sick time cannot be the reason to fire, demote, suspend or exercise any adverse action against the employee.
Allegheny County compiled answers to commonly asked questions about the new ordinance to help employers and employees understand their responsibilities and rights. Consult your attorney or employee compensation advisor before proceeding with any policy modifications to ensure compliance with this new law.
1Ordinance No. 15-21-OR (the “Allegheny County Paid Sick Leave Ordinance”) 2The rule defines “seasonal employee” as “a person who has been hired for a temporary period of not more than
16 weeks during a calendar year and has been notified in writing at the time of hire that the individual's employment is limited to the beginning and ending dates of the employer's seasonal period, as determined by the employer.” 3The ordinance guidelines define “Employees” the same way that PA does in 43 P.S. Section 333.103 (h), and excludes federal and state workers, independent contractors and seasonal workers.
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