Philadelphia Sick Leave Law Starts Wednesday

Could become issue in presidential campaign.

Believe it or not, Philadelphia’s sick leave law goes into effect Wednesday.

Why would that be so hard to believe? Consider: Mayor Nutter vetoed sick leave legislation twice in recent years before undergoing a conversion on the issue. And opposition to such worker-friendly requirements is so intense that Republicans tried to block Philly’s bill in the Pennsylvania Legislature. (They’ve only passed the Senate with their bill; even if they get the House, they’d have to do so in sufficient numbers to override a likely veto from Gov. Tom Wolf.)

Now, according to some estimates, 200,000 Philadelphia workers stand to benefit.

Huffington Post reports:

Under its terms, employees can claim the days for their own illnesses or for those of direct family members, or they can use the days to deal with domestic violence incidents. The law goes into effect next week. Once it does, workers begin accruing paid sick time — one hour for every 40 that they work — as soon as they’ve been on the job for at least three months.

The law doesn’t apply to seasonal employees or interns, or to companies where workers have unions. Companies with fewer than 10 employees must provide the time off, but not salary. Even so, as many as 200,000 Philadelphians who didn’t have paid sick days before will now get them, according to the law’s supporters.

HR Legalist notes the punishments that can come for not offering leave:

Can I be sued for violating this ordinance? Yes. It is important to evaluate the new ordinance’s requirements and consult with local employment counsel to determine the impact on your business, as a violation could be costly. In addition to imposing civil fines and penalties, the ordinance also creates a private right of action for aggrieved employees. A prevailing employee may recover the full amount of any unpaid sick time which was denied, as well as “any wages and benefits lost or other damages suffered resulting from the employer’s violation,” up to $2,000 in liquidated damages, and attorney fees.

JD Supra says the law doesn’t apply to businesses that already have generous sick leave laws:

Employers who already give their employees at least as much leave as provided in the ordinance may not need to make significant changes to their leave policies. However, even if you allow a generous amount of leave, you need to make sure that you are providing leave for the three main purposes allowed under the ordinance: (1) an employee’s own medical condition (including preventative care); (2) care for an employee’s family member (including preventative medical care); and (3) absences necessary due to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking (including leave in connection with civil and criminal proceedings).

Back at Huffington Post, there are hopes this is the start of something bigger:

President Barack Obama has called for a national paid sick days law that would cover all states. Last month, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced a budget amendment designed to test support for the concept. It got 61 votes.

Hillary Clinton has hinted during the campaign that she will support a national paid sick days law, similar to what Obama has proposed. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is Clinton’s lone declared Democratic rival, has already co-sponsored such a bill in the Senate. As for the Republicans, the three presidential candidates who had a chance to vote on Murray’s amendment — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio — all voted no. Representatives of the campaign for Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, did not respond to questions about paid sick days laws.

Read the full text of the paid sick leave law here.