On July 27, 2021, Mayor Bill Peduto signed a new Temporary COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which will become Section 626B of the City of Pittsburgh Code. It requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to full-time employees (and a proportional amount for part-time employees) for certain COVID-19-related reasons. 626B was passed as a new law, but it is nearly identical to Pittsburgh’s original Temporary COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (626A) that was in effect from December 8, 2020 through June 17, 2021. Though new 626B’s text largely mirrors that of 626A, there are some important differences, such as:
- 626B will remain in effect until at least July 27, 2022 (for at least 365 days), and will not contain a one-week grace period to use leave after the public health emergency ends like 626A did;
- 626B adds a new qualifying reason for leave: the employee’s or family member’s need to obtain a vaccine or vaccine booster;
- For absences connected to an employee’s or family member’s isolation when experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, 626B adds “under the guidelines promulgated by the Allegheny County Health Department”;
- When referencing COVID-19, 626B includes “or any of its variants.”
Of course, employers’ most pressing question about 626B is whether they must provide a new bank of leave to employees who in 2021 used all available 626A leave or whether employers may count or offset leave taken under 626A against their obligation to provide leave under 626B. Until the Mayor’s Office of Equity (MOE) issues guidance on this issue, it appears 626B requires an entirely new bank of leave because it is a separate ordinance rather than an amendment to or extension of the original ordinance. Moreover, unlike Pittsburgh’s pre-COVID Paid Sick Days Act, 626B does not describe leave employers must provide and employees can use in annual terms. While both 626A and 626B did or will apply in 2021, remember that 626B will continue to apply through at least the first seven months of 2022.
Employers should review 626B carefully to ensure they understand their obligations, watch to see if MOE issues any guidance, and contact their employment counsel with any questions. Additionally, employers with 499 or fewer U.S. employees should examine whether, and to what extent, federal tax credits available through September 30, 2021 might be available for leave they provide under 626B.1
1 See Alexis Knapp, Jim Paretti, Michelle Falconer, and Sebastian Chilco, Latest COVID-19 Relief Package Provides Tax Credits for Voluntary Paid Sick and Family Leave, Littler ASAP (Mar. 18, 2021).