A task force appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to examine the impact of paid sick leave legislation recently released its final report that recommends Philadelphia employers with 15 or more workers should provide paid sick leave. The report follows unsuccessful attempts by City Council to pass such legislation at a time when a paid sick leave mandate was viewed as cost-prohibitive for businesses suffering under a stagnant economy. Issued amidst the signs of gradual economic recovery, these recommendations also respond to the growing trend of paid sick leave laws implemented in other cities, such as New York City, and states, such as California.

The report makes the following recommendations:

Employer Threshold

Employers with 15 or more employees should provide paid sick leave to qualifying employees. This is a higher threshold than required by the most recent ordinance introduced by City Council, which would have mandated coverage for certain employers with five or more employees. Employers with fewer employees should provide unpaid, earned sick time that follows the paid sick leave accrual recommendations and can be used under the same conditions as paid sick leave.

Suggested coverage exemptions include federal and state employees, employees covered under a collective bargaining agreement, certain temporary and seasonal workers, interns, adjunct faculty academics, independent contractors, pool workers, and certain part-time employees.

Reasons for Usage

Sick leave should be available to employees for their own injury, medical care, and health conditions, as well as those of family members, including children, spouses, domestic partners, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings (including foster, step, and in-law relationships). In addition, employees should be able to use sick leave as "safe days" to seek treatment, legal services, or relocation in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Accrual Rate and Maximum Accrual Amounts

Employees should earn one hour of paid sick leave per 40 hours worked and may accrue up to 40 hours per a rolling 12-month period of employment.

Wait Period for Use and Accrual

Employees should begin earning sick leave hours for any work completed upon the commencement of their employment, but may use earned leave 90 days after that. Earned leave may be used in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment permitted by an employer’s payroll system.

Existing Employer Policies

Employers should not change existing policies or provide additional leave if the existing policy satisfies or exceeds the accrual requirements and can be used under the same conditions.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

Paid sick leave subject to collective bargaining agreements should be excluded from the paid sick mandate.

No Pay for Unused Hours

No compensation should be provided for any earned and unused time at separation from employment.

Record-Keeping Requirements

Employers should keep records documenting hours worked, earned time accrued, and sick time taken by employees for a two-year period.

Compliance

Enforcement of the ordinance should be complaint driven. Employers should cooperate with complaint investigations (conducted by an appropriate office to be determined by the City) and be given a reasonable grace period to correct the violation before any fines are levied.

Abuse

Employers may require reasonable documentation for sick leave use. The employee should provide notice as soon as practicable and comply with the employer’s reasonable, normal notification policies and/or call-in procedures, provided that such requirements do not interfere with the purposes for which leave is needed.

Monitoring and Review of Ordinance

The City should complete a periodic review of any enacted paid sick leave ordinance to assess compliance, number of employers included, and impact on employers every two years for the first four years following enactment.

If Philadelphia adopts these recommendations as law, an estimated 120,000 of the 200,000 workers currently without paid sick leave would become entitled to the new leave. It is expected that City Council will respond to the report by passing a compromise piece of legislation in the coming year.

Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group routinely helps employers update their policies and procedures to comply with new laws. For more information, please contact Brian D. Pedrow at 215.864.8108 or pedrow@ballardspahr.com, or the member of the Group with whom you work.


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