Early this week, the Pittsburgh City Controller’s Office launched a new section on its website containing resources for employers, including regulations, required postings, and an FAQ section regarding the city’s paid sick leave ordinance [pdf], passed in August.  Under the ordinance, starting on January 11, 2016, employers must grant employees working in Pittsburgh 1 hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked, up to a minimum of (1) 40 hours per year if their place of work employs 15 or more people or (2) 24 hours per year if their place of work employs fewer than 15 people (sick time will be unpaid during the first year after the effective date).  As with other sick leave laws, there are specific recordkeeping and notice requirements, and the law specifies what the leave may be used for and when the employer may request certification of the appropriate use of sick leave.

To add to the drama, various businesses and trade groups have filed a declaratory judgment action (GD-15-016442 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania) against the City of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania state court, alleging that the sick leave law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution and Pennsylvania Municipalities Act and asking the court to declare the law null, void and unenforceable.  The Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, has since intervened in support of the ordinance.  The litigation is pending.

Other sick leave updates:

  • Minneapolis may be next to jump on the sick leave bandwagon. Pursuant to its Working Families Agenda, the City of Minneapolis has drafted proposals for Earned Sick Time and Fair Scheduling ordinances.  Ordinances are currently being drafted and the City is seeking commentary.  A recommendation is expected by the end of the year.
  • The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has published proposed rules [pdf] implementing the Oregon state sick leave law, which goes into effect January 1, 2016 (passed in June, previously reported on here). The proposed rules provide additional information regarding, inter alia, the accrual and use of sick time, payment for sick time and calculation of the number of employees for purposes of determining whether sick time is paid or unpaid.   The BOLI is holding three public hearings in the next few weeks and is seeking comments from the public on the proposed rules through October 30.
  • On the other side of the coin, Michigan has passed a law creating state preemption over local ordinances.  The law, known as the “Local Government Labor Regulatory limits Act” (Act 105 of 2015) essentially prohibits local governmental bodies from enacting, among other things, paid sick leave and minimum wage laws.

Meanwhile, employees in Washington, D.C. may soon be eligible for 16 weeks of paid family leave, for use following the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a dying relative, for personal medical leave, or family military related purposes.  Under the proposal [pdf], introduced on October 6, private employers would have to pay fees (based on a percentage of each employee’s salary) into a fund to provide the paid family leave.  Unlike the current law, which provides for unpaid family leave, there is no exclusion for small businesses.  Under the proposal, an employee would be eligible for leave if he or she (1) lived in D.C., (2) spent more than 50% of his or her work time in D.C., or (3) if the employer is a registered business holder in D.C. and the employee does not spend more than 50% of his or her working time in a state other than D.C.  The proposal is far from a sure thing, however—it still has to be approved by the council, signed by the Mayor, and survive congressional review before it would be become law.

In other news, Colorado employers should be aware of two recent changes to Colorado laws regarding employee leave and vacation.

  • First, the Colorado Parental Involvement Act expired on September 1, 2015.  The Act, which was enacted in 2009, required employers to allow employees to take unpaid leave to attend various academic activities for or with their children.  Employers should be aware that such leave is no longer mandated and  modify their policies if needed.
  • Second, Colorado employers with use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies need to review and modify those policies in light of a recent announcement by the Colorado Division of Labor that once vacation pay has been earned, it cannot be unearned (and thus, vacation must be paid out upon termination).   Employers should remove any policies or provisions of handbooks or contracts providing for forfeiture of earned vacation pay or that cap the amount of vacation time that may be carried over from year to year.   The Division’s new policy applies to vacation that has been earned on or after January 1, 2015.  Notably, employers are not required to provide paid vacation, and are free to cap the amount of vacation that may be earned.   In addition, employers are permitted to have use-it-or-lose it policies with respect to paid time off, provided the policy is carefully drafted to exclude reference to vacation time.

Last but not least, Oregon employers need to review their job applications pronto.  Effective January 1, 2016 (the new year is going to be so much fun for HR personnel!), it will be illegal [pdf] for most employers in Oregon to ask job applicants criminal history questions on job applications.  Such questions may be asked during the interview stage or after a conditional offer of employment has been made, however, and the law does not prohibit criminal background checks as part of the employment application process.