Philadelphia Expands Scope of Paid Sick Time Ordinance

March 25, 2020Alerts

Invoking emergency powers, Philadelphia has dramatically expanded coverage under the city’s Paid Sick Time Ordinance to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It now extends to workers who are in self-quarantine or who must remain at home to care for children whose schools are closed and other pandemic-related reasons for not leaving the home.

Mayor Jim Kenney issued the supplemental emergency regulation using powers contained in the City’s Home Rule Charter that waive the normal notice period before regulations become effective. Therefore, the regulation became effective on March 16, 2020.  

The ordinance provides for up to 40 hours of sick time per year. Employers with 10 or more employees must provide paid sick time, while employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick time. The ordinance applies only to employees working in the City of Philadelphia.  

Prior to the issuance of the emergency regulation, an employee was permitted to use sick time under the ordinance only to:

  • Seek treatment for his/her own health needs, including preventive medical care 
  • Care for a family member’s health needs, including preventive medical care

The emergency regulation dramatically expands the approved uses of sick leave by liberally interpreting the phrase “preventive medical care” in the ordinance. Under the new regulation, covered uses include:

  • Seeking treatment for the employee’s illness due to COVID-19 (this would already have been a covered use)
  • Self-quarantining because the employee is experiencing to COVID-19 symptoms
  • Self-quarantining because the employee has come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with virus
  • Caring for a family member who is home due to closure of a school, childcare facility or adult care facility
  • Remaining home because of a workplace closure order issued by the Governor or the Mayor
  • Remaining home because the employee or a family member has a greater risk of harm if they contract the virus, including a compromised immune system

This dramatic expansion of covered uses for sick leave under the ordinance will likely invite legal challenge by employers that refuse to provide accrued sick time to employees that are not experiencing situations that were contemplated under the ordinance itself. The outcome of such a challenge is unclear in these turbulent times.