Yesterday, Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law a bill mandating that most Philadelphia employers provide paid sick leave to their employees. It is anticipated that the law will provide this type of leave to approximately 200,000 Philadelphia workers. Employers that already provide more leave than the law requires will not need to make any changes. In addition, no changes will be required for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

The law, which takes effect on May 13, 2015, requires businesses to provide each covered employee with one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours of work. Covered employees are defined as those who work at least 40 hours annually in Philadelphia. Employees may accrue up to 40 hours of sick time per year, unless the employer sets a higher limit. Unless the employer provides at least 40 hours of sick time at the beginning of the year, any unused time may be carried over to the following year, but the employee is not entitled to take more than 40 hours of sick time in any year. Of course, the employer can set a higher limit. Although the law refers to providing leave based only on a calendar year, the interpretation of that new language may come under question—Councilman Dennis O’Brien has made clear that the intent was to allow the employer to provide leave based on any 12-month period, such as basing it on the anniversary of the employee’s hire date.

The law applies to all employers with employees in Philadelphia. Employers with fewer than 10 covered employees do not have to provide paid sick leave, but must allow employees to take similar amounts of unpaid leave. Certain workers, such as independent contractors, temporary employees hired for less than six months, interns, and adjunct professors are excluded.

The paid sick time may be used for:

  • An employee’s own mental or physical illness, need for a medical diagnosis or treatment, or need for preventive medical care
  • Care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, need for medical diagnosis or treatment, or need for preventive medical care
  • Absence necessary due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking where the employee wishes to obtain medical attention, services from a victim’s service organization, psychological or other counseling, relocation, or legal services, either for himself or herself or a family member

The law allows an employee to request paid sick leave orally or in writing. If an employee uses sick time for more than two consecutive days, the employer may require reasonable documentation that the sick time is covered by the law.

An anti-retaliation provision of the law prohibits employers from taking action against an employee who exercised his or her rights under it. Violations of the law must be reported to an agency to be designated by the Mayor. Agency reporting and processing is mandatory before instituting a private action.

Mandatory paid sick leave in Philadelphia has been seven years in the making. Mayor Nutter rejected similar bills in 2011 and 2013, noting that he was never against paid sick leave, but was concerned about instituting the requirement during the economic downturn.

Employers in Philadelphia covered by the new law should review their policies and procedures relating to sick leave to determine if they will need to make changes to comply. Preparation for implementation may include handbook and policy changes as well as development of a tracking system for the accrual and use of paid sick time.

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 Shannon D. Farmer at 215.864.8221 or farmers@ballardspahr.com, Carolyn A. Pellegrini at 215.864.8314 or pellegrinic@ballardspahr.com, or the member of the Group with whom you work.


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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.

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