March 26, 2015
On February 12, 2015, the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania signed into law the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance.
The Ordinance requires employers with 10 or more employees to provide up to one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours that an employee works in the City. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Eligible employees will begin to accrue sick time on May 13, 2015 and will be able to use it after working for their employer for 90 days. Employees can bank a maximum of 40 hours of sick time in a calendar year and can carry over all unused sick time to another calendar year. However, employers may limit the use of sick leave to 40 hours each year. Employers are not required to compensate employees for accrued, but unused, sick time when employment ends.
The Ordinance applies to most full-time employees in the private sector, but excludes independent contractors, seasonal workers, temporary workers hired for fewer than six months, adjunct professors, interns, and employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement, plus other limited exceptions.
Employees may use sick time for the treatment of their own health condition or for preventative care, or for the care of a family member, which is broadly defined to include parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, spouses, and life partners. Employees also can use sick time to deal with issues related to being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If an employer violates the Ordinance, employees will have to exhaust administrative remedies with an agency to be appointed by the Mayor. Complaints must be filed with the agency within one year of the violation. Civil suits must be filed within two years of the violation, and may be brought as a class action. Remedies include the value of the unpaid sick time; lost wages, benefits, or other damages suffered as a result of the employer’s violation of the Ordinance; double damages up to $2,000; and reasonable attorney’s fees. Equitable relief – such as an injunction or employment reinstatement – is also available.
It is important for private sector employers whose employees are covered under the Ordinance to ensure that their leave policies are compliant with the Ordinance. Though employers do not have to provide additional sick leave if their policies meet or exceed the Ordinance’s requirements, they must provide written notice to employees of their entitlement to sick leave and keep records of hours worked and sick time taken. Employers also must take steps to prevent retaliation against those who use sick time.
For employers whose employees do not work in Philadelphia or other locations with sick leave laws, consider proactively implementing a sick leave policy, as this issue continues to gain traction on both the federal and state level. At a minimum, employers outside of Philadelphia should closely monitor federal, state, and local laws to ensure they remain compliant with the law.