Philadelphia Gets Sick Time Fever

Written by Robert G. Brody and Abby M. Warren on February 27, 2015

Paid sick time laws are spreading across the country, with more and more municipalities adopting ordinances requiring employers to give employees paid sick time.  Recently, Philadelphia joined this growing list of municipalities, which includes Jersey City, New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Patterson.

Below are the details of this new law, effective May 13, 2015:

  • Covered Employers: Employers with ten or more employees in Philadelphia must offer paid time to employees while employers with less than ten employees must offer sick time but it need not be paid.
  • Required Sick Time: Employers must allow employees to accrue one hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours in a calendar year. For exempt employees, employers can assume a 40-hour week for purposes of accrual unless the employee typically works less, in which case the employee accrues sick time based on his/her normal work week.
  • Eligibility: Employees are eligible for sick time if they work within the geographic boundaries of Philadelphia for at least 40 hours in a calendar year. Additionally, certain categories of individuals are completely excluded from the law including independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, employees hired for a term of less than six months, interns, pool employees, state and federal employees and employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Use of Paid Sick Time: Paid sick time can not only be used for the employee’s own physical or mental illness and to care for certain family members, but also for absences related to domestic violence, physical abuse, or stalking. This includes non-health related absences such as seeking legal services or relocating.  Employees who are absent due to domestic violence, physical abuse, or stalking are also entitled to additional unpaid time under other City ordinances.
  • Timing of Use: Employees may begin using accrued paid sick time 90 days after they are hired.
  • Carry Over: Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of accrued and unused paid sick time from year to year except if they are given the full 40 hours of sick time on January 1 each year.
  • Advance Notice: Employees may request sick time either orally or in writing. Employers can require employees request sick time in advance if possible and ask that employees make an effort to schedule the absence in a manner that does not unduly disrupt operations.  For unexpected absences, such as a medical emergency, the employer can require the employee notify the employer before the start of the employee’s scheduled work hours or as soon as is practicable if the need arises during working hours.  If an employee is absent more than two consecutive days, the employer can require reasonable documentation that the absence was due to a covered reason.
  • Increments: Employers can require employees use sick time in either hourly increments or the smallest increments that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time, whichever is smaller.
  • Other Leave Programs: Like many other sick leave laws around the country, the Philadelphia law does not require employers who have paid time off policies that meet or exceed the requirements of this law to offer additional leave.
  • Replacement Worker: Employers cannot require employees to search for or find a replacement as a condition of providing sick time.
  • Notice to Employees: Employers are required to give employees notice of their entitlement to sick time, the amount and terms of use, that retaliation is prohibited, and that each employee has the right to file a complaint or bring a civil action if sick time is denied or the employer retaliates. Employers can either post the notice or give individual notices to employees.  In either event, the notice must be provided in English and in any language that is the first language spoken by at least 5% of the employer’s workforce.  The Office of the Mayor will create this notice.
  • Records: Employers must keep records documenting the hours worked by employees, sick time taken, and payment made for sick time, and maintain these records for two years.
  • Penalties: The Office of the Mayor can impose various penalties and fines for violations of the law including $2,000 in liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

As time goes by, we will likely have more guidance as to how this ordinance will be interpreted and enforced.  We will keep you updated on any guidance released.  Employers should know that this sick time law is not the first local employment law that Philadelphia has enacted.  In 2011, Philadelphia passed ban the box legislation for employers with ten or more employees.  Due to the growing trend of municipalities passing labor and employment laws, employers should ensure they are familiar with all local laws in the municipalities where they do business.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state, and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.

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Related Topics: Legal Updates

About the Authors

Robert G. Brody is the founding member of Brody and Associates, LLC. He has been quoted and published in national publications and appears as a guest T.V. commentator on contemporary Labor and Employment issues. Learn More

Abby M. Warren is an Associate with Brody and Associates, LLC. She works on both Labor and Employment Law matters. Abby worked at the New Haven Superior Court. Learn More