On February 12, 2015, Philadelphia became yet another jurisdiction to pass a law guaranteeing paid sick leave for employees. The Philadelphia ordinance grants certain employees paid sick leave which can be used to respond to physical or mental illness, to care for ill family members, to attend preventative or diagnostic medical appointments, and to respond to the physical, psychological, and legal ramifications of domestic abuse, sexual violence, or stalking.

Some Relevant Provisions of the New Law:

  • Starting on May 13, 2015, employers with 10 or more employees must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick time each year for all employees who work within the boundaries of the City of Philadelphia. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide at least 40 hours of unpaid sick time each year to employees who work in Philadelphia.
  • Independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, interns, State and Federal employees, and employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are excluded from the definition of “employee” under the law and thus not covered by the law.
  • Sick leave must accrue at a minimum rate of one hour of sick time per every 40 hours worked, but employers may impose a cap of 40 hours per year and may restrict the amount of paid sick leave taken to 40 hours per year. Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours per week unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours, in which case leave accrues based on upon their normal work week. Of course, like other sick leave laws, employers may provide a greater amount of sick leave than the minimum mandated by the city law.
  • Unused sick time must be carried over to subsequent years unless the employer elects to provide 40 hours of paid sick time at the beginning of each calendar year.
  • Though accrual begins immediately upon an employee’s start date, employers may prohibit use of the accrued sick time until 90 days after date of hire.
  • “Chain establishments” which the law defines as “an establishment doing business under the same trade name used by fifteen (15) or more establishments” either in Philadelphia, or anywhere else, are required to provide paid sick time even if the Philadelphia location of the chain employs fewer than 10 people.
  • Employers with preexisting paid leave, vacation day, or similar paid time off (“PTO”) policies that meet or exceed the requirements of the Philadelphia law are not required to provide additional sick leave.
  • A policy may require employees to include the expected duration of any absence in their oral or written requests for time off, to provide reasonable advance notice when the employee is aware of the need for sick time in advance (e.g. to attend a doctor’s appointment), and to make a “reasonable effort” to schedule the sick time “in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”
  • Sick time may be used in hourly or daily increments (or the smallest increment used to account for absences or other use of time).
  • Sick time need not be paid out upon termination of employment.
  • For absences of more than 2 consecutive days, employers may require “reasonable documentation,” to ensure the sick leave is covered by the law. For employees absent due to personal illness or a family member’s illness, a note from a healthcare professional is sufficient. For an employee absent due to domestic abuse, sexual violence, or stalking, a police report, or signed statement from a victim services organization is also acceptable. The employer may not require the documentation to describe the details of any illness or violence.

Employers must give employees notice of the rights guaranteed by the law, and include the information in employee handbooks that are distributed. Additionally, employers must provide notice of these rights in English, as well as any language spoken by at least 5% of the employer’s workforce. Employers also must establish a record-keeping system to track sick time.

An agency yet to be named by Philadelphia’s mayor will be responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the law.   Philadelphia employers should update their policies and be on the lookout for further regulations and interpretative guidance.