Not so fast—Judge strikes down Pittsburgh’s paid sick leave ordinance

by Gregory J. Wartman

In November, we reported that Pittsburgh had enacted a paid sick time ordinance for employees working in the city that was scheduled to take effect January 11, 2016 (see “Pittsburgh passes ordinance requiring paid sick time”). On December 21, 2015, a Pennsylvania judge struck down the ordinance, ruling that it is “invalid unenforceable.”

As we reported in November, the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and others filed a lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh to bar it from implementing the ordinance, which would have entitled workers within the city to up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. They contended that the Pittsburgh City Council lacked the authority to pass and enforce the law.

The court agreed, ruling that Pittsburgh, as a home rule charter municipality created under a state statute—the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law—did not have authority to enact this type of ordinance placing “affirmative duties on businesses, occupations and employers.” The Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law prohibits a home rule charter, such as Pittsburgh, from “determin[ing] duties, responsibilities or requirements placed upon business, occupations and employers . . . except as expressly provided by statutes.” Because no statute authorized this type of obligation on employers, Pittsburgh wasn’t authorized to impose such an obligation.

While the city Greg Wartman 1 columnof Pittsburgh may appeal this ruling, it appears, at least for now, that proponents of paid sick leave in Pennsylvania will have to focus their lobbying efforts on Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., rather than on local government.

Gregory J. Wartman is a partner with Saul Ewing LLP in Philadelphia and the editor of Pennsylvania Employment Law Letter. You can contact him at gwartman@saul.com.

About Pennsylvania Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Pennsylvania Employment Law Letter written by attorneys at the law firm of Saul Ewing LLP. PENNSYLVANIA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to individual problems but rather to provide information about current developments in Pennsylvania employment law. Questions about individual problems should be addressed to the employment law attorney of your choice. Pennsylvania does not certify specialists in labor and employment law, and we do not claim certification in this area. Contact the attorneys at Saul Ewing LLP.
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