A look at Pittsburgh’s sick time enforcement guidelines

A look at Pittsburgh’s sick time enforcement guidelines

We have long argued that if Pittsburgh wants stronger economic growth, it needs to remove the constraints it places on free market economics and address its shortsighted governance practices.

This year a major constraint, the Paid Sick Days Act (act), will go into effect.  That follows a decision by the Supreme Court in July that reversed two lower court rulings and upheld the act. On March 15 covered employees at private businesses (those that work for at least 35 hours in a calendar year within the City of Pittsburgh, unless exempted) will begin to accrue sick time (1 hour for every 35 hours worked unless the employer provides a higher amount, with annual accrual caps depending on the number of employees).

In a 2015 Policy Brief , prior to the court proceedings, we asked “assuming that the ordinance stands how does the sick leave ordinance get enforced?” 

The answer comes from the city’s enforcement guidelines released in December.

The Office of Equity (office) will oversee the act.  That’s a curious choice.  In 2020 the office is budgeted at $1.7 million with 15 full-time equivalent employees. The office is new, having been originally designated a “bureau” created in 2014. One can only assume the city’s Department of Law will also be heavily involved.  We noted that enforcement “will almost certainly require personnel diversion or additional hires.”  That might come via budget amendments.

The guidelines describe how complaints are to be investigated and decided. A complaint has to be filed within six months of the alleged violation.  The office then determines if it has jurisdiction.  If so, an investigator is assigned; if not, written notice is sent to the parties.  For complaints that move forward, rules of evidence and a fact-finding process are mentioned. 

Once the office receives an investigator’s report there are three choices: further investigation, dismissal or assessment of a penalty unless compliance is achieved. The guidelines state that complaints should be closed within 120 days and the ruling can be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas.

The bureaucratic, legal and record-keeping impact of sick time is going to be felt by businesses in the city this year. Only time will tell how those subject to it will react.