Court Throws Out Pittsburgh Sick Day Ordinance, Says It is “Unenforceable”

By Mark T. Phillis

In a ruling this week, a trial court judge held that the City of Pittsburgh did not have the authority under state law to enact the Paid Sick Days Ordinance that Pittsburgh’s City Council passed last summer.

It remains to be seen whether the City of Pittsburgh will appeal this decision.

After the City of Pittsburgh passed the Paid Sick Days Act, which would require employers to provide employees with a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee works in the city limits, a group that included the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and several local restaurants and businesses challenged the City’s authority to enact such legislation.

Invalid in a “home rule” city

The challenge was based on the fact that under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh is a home rule charter municipality. Under state law:

A municipality which adopts a home rule charter shall not determine duties, responsibilities or requirements placed upon businesses, occupations and employers . . . except as expressly provided by the statutes which are applicable in every part of this Commonwealth or which are applicable to all municipalities or to a class or classes of municipalities.”

Citing an earlier Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, the trial court found that the Paid Sick Days Act imposed a requirement on employers and therefore was invalid and unenforceable.

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The City of Pittsburgh had argued that state law permits cities to pass ordinances relating to disease prevention and control, but the trial court noted that the provision of state law that the City relied upon applies only to municipalities that have boards of health or a department of health.  Pittsburgh has neither.

Judge’s order is in place until March 11

It is unclear whether the City will appeal. In the meantime, the judge’s order staying the enforcement of the Ordinance until at least March 11, 2016 remains in place.

We will continue to monitor this litigation.

The was originally published on the Littler Mendelson blog.

Mark T. Phillis is a Shareholder in the Pittsburgh office of the law firm Littler Mendelson. He handles a wide range of employment issues with a focus on those related to the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also handles cases involving:

  • Unlawful discrimination and harassment;
  • Employment litigation;
  • Wage and hour issues;
  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

He represents employers in federal and state courts and before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, and other administrative agencies.

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