Employers with Philadelphia employees should be aware of City Council’s newly introduced 2021 Public Health Emergency ordinance, which mandates that employers provide Philadelphia employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. This ordinance, like the 2020 version, is very similar to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but with key distinctions like the lack of tax credits and the application to employers. City Council is holding a hearing on the proposed ordinance Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Stay tuned for any amendments. The bill as introduced contains the following provisions:
Employers, which include individuals, partnerships, associations, corporations or those acting directly or indirectly in relation to any employee, with more than 50 employees.
One working for a covered employer for 90 or more days, who works within Philadelphia, or normally works within Philadelphia but is currently teleworking due to the pandemic or who works at multiple locations but spends more than 50% of his/her time within Philadelphia.
When Is Leave Required?
Leave is required under this ordinance in the following instances:
- Exposure – When a public health official or authority, a health care provider or an employer determines that an employee’s presence in public could jeopardize the health of others due to the employee’s exposure to COVID-19 or exhibition of symptoms, regardless of actual COVID-19 diagnosis;
- Family Member Exposure – When an employee needs to care for a family member due to the family member being in the same circumstances as No. 1;
- Isolation or Care – When an employee needs to self-isolate because s/he has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is experiencing symptoms or is seeking medical diagnosis or care due to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19;
- Family Member Isolation or Care – When an employee needs to care for a family member due to the family member being in the same circumstances as No. 3; and
- Child Care – When an employee needs to care for a child because his/her school or place of care has closed, or his/her childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.
How Much Leave Is Required?
For employees who work 40 or more hours per week, 80 hours of leave shall be provided for the above reasons. If an eligible employee works less than 40 hours, the amount of leave shall be equal to the amount of time the employee works in an average 14-day period. If the employee’s schedule changes, it is equal to the average number of hours the employee was scheduled in the previous 90 days, multiplied by 14.
This leave shall be in addition to all other paid leave benefits an employer offers and may not be reduced by the amount of paid leave an employer has already provided, unless that paid sick leave is specifically for COVID-19 related use. Notably, if the employer adopted a policy after March 6, 2020 for COVID-19 sick leave, that leave may run concurrently with leave under this policy. Nothing in the ordinance affects or diminishes an employer’s obligation under a collective bargaining agreement or private contract. However, the protections in PHEL may not be waived through a CBA.
Finally, note that the ordinance contains notice requirements, a right to return clause, an anti-retaliation clause and creates a private cause of action that does require administrative exhaustion.
ABOUT KATHARINE BATISTA
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Ms. Batista is an employment & labor attorney who provides businesses with advice and risk mitigation strategies, and zealous representation in litigation. She frequently represents businesses in the hospitality, financial services, automotive dealership, engineering and architecture and healthcare industries. Specifically, Ms. Batista successfully defends employers against claims of discrimination and harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour violations. Ms. Batista also commonly represents her clients in actions involving employee mobility and trade secret theft. Employment and labor law is ever-changing. Employers need to feel secure in how they manage their employees so they can focus on their business. Ms. Batista affords her clients that security.
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