The Pittsburgh paid sick leave law states that every private employer must offer paid sick leave to their employees, regardless of size. For larger employers, defined as having 15 or more employees, the employer is required to provide 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works, capping at 40 hours of sick time per year. For smaller employers with less than 15 employees, they are only required to provide up to 24 hours of sick time per year. This new legislation is slated to go into effect on March 15, 2020, and will allow for a 90-day grace period for all businesses to comply.

Originally, this bill was passed in 2015 but was immediately challenged in court by a handful of Pittsburgh businesses and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. Over the last few years, the case made its way to the state’s Supreme Court, where the statute was upheld.

Key Features of Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act Which Employers and Employees Are Covered?

As stated above, the main feature of the Pittsburgh paid sick leave law is that all private employers are now required to offer some amount of paid sick time to all of their employees based on hours worked. Although some employers may choose to front-load the employee’s sick time balance to them at the start of a new year, the main rule of thumb for employees and employers is that every 35 hours worked earns the employee an hour of sick time. In the state of Pennsylvania, about 40% of all privately employed workers are not offered sick time.

This new legislation also applies to employers and workers that are not based in Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania, but still operate their business there. For example, delivery drivers working the same number of hours within the city would still qualify for a paid sick time through their employer, as required by the new legislation. Employees whose incomes are based on earning tips also are covered under this law. Although tipped employees are often paid well below minimum wage, this legislation would require the employer to pay the worker the state’s minimum wage for any paid sick time used. Restaurant and service industry employees are one of the largest percentages of workers in the city, meaning that this law provides a large number of employees with guaranteed paid time off.

What the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Law Means for Employers

With this new legislation comes a few implications for employers. Pennsylvania is considered an “at-will” employer state, which means that an employer can terminate an employee without reason, as long as they do not interfere with that employees’ rights under the law, such as an accommodation under the ADA. With employers now being required to offer a set amount of paid time off for hours worked, the presence of this new legislation protects an employee’s usage of that sick time. Although an employer might require an employee to bring a doctor’s note for a long absence, this still means that an employee cannot be punished for their use of sick time. Employees who have used their full balance of sick time for the year can still be held accountable for missing further shifts, however. Employers should review their current paid time off policies to determine what should be changed to comply with the new law.

What the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Law Means for Employees

For employees, this means that calling out sick is now a protected action, at least to a certain extent. Beforehand, employees may have felt pressured by their employer to come into work when they were extremely sick, experiencing mental trauma, or attempting to care for another family member. Now, employees that are in need of using sick time can do so without fear of repercussions at work or missing wages from not working.

This also means that employers will now be responsible for compensating employees for missing work. Although this is controversial to a number of businesses operating in Pennsylvania, it will also allow for employees to recover from illnesses without fear of reproach or spreading their illness, an issue especially prevalent in food service industries.

What Are the Employer’s Notification Requirements for the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Law?

With the new legislation, employers are now legally required to notify employees of the changes to the state’s sick time laws and their rights under said laws, as well as the amount of sick time allocated to them and when it is permissible to use them. The employer must also make clear to the employee that the request or use of sick time cannot be retaliated against and is a protected action. Finally, employers are required to post notices within the workplace advising employees of their rights within the new legislation. These notices must be posted in conspicuous locations.

What Kind of Record-Keeping is Required for the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Leave Law?

Under the new law, employers are required by the state to maintain records of paid sick leave for at least two years. The law presumes that employers without any record of sick leave going back that far have violated the law and will be fined for the violation.

Are there penalties for violating the Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act?

Employers are prohibited from penalizing or discriminating against employees attempting to use their guaranteed sick time under the law. For every violation of the Paid Sick Days Act, an employer is required to pay $100 to the city. On top of that, employers cannot retaliate against an employee who wishes to file a complaint with the city regarding the Paid Sick Days Act. If an employee wishes to pursue a complaint with the city against their employer, the city is allowed to seek full restitution for an employee’s lost wages and benefits that have been punished by their employer illegally.

When and How Can an Employee Use their Sick Leave, and what are their notification requirements?

Eligible employees for the use of sick time under the new law must have been employed with their current employer for at least 90 days before they are able to use any sick time, although they are still able to accrue time off during that period. Employees are able to verbally request sick time off with their employer but may be required to fill out paperwork for record keeping purposes. Employees that have taken off more than 3 consecutive days for any one issue may be asked for documentation from a healthcare provider before they allow the employee back to work. Eligible employees may use their sick leave to care for their own illness or medical condition, to care for a family member with an illness or a medical condition, or to comply with a public health emergency. Mental health conditions are also included under the new sick leave laws.

For employers in Pennsylvania, the new legislation can be a bit of a headache, given that they may be required to alter their sick time policies to accommodate the new legislation. However, as noted by the state’s Supreme Court, the onset of this new law will help address the prevalence of illness spread by sick employees. Given this change in the law, companies should be diligent in reviewing their paid time off policies. MBM’s Employment Law Attorneys can ensure your compliance with the Ordinance and other laws related to paid time off. Please contact us at or 412-242.4400.

John H. Prorok
John Prorok

John Prorok possesses an invaluable understanding of privately held business owners’ needs in business planning, corporate formation, and transactions. He frequently speaks and counsels emerging and start‐up enterprises, offering insightful legal strategies toward success.