Just months after it came into effect, an ordinance guaranteeing paid sick leave to all citizens of Pittsburgh has been revoked. What are the workers to do now?
In the U.S., requiring employers to provide paid medical leave remains a hot-button issue at both the state and the federal levels. The most recent battleground is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the Paid Sick Days Act (PSDA) was declared “invalid and unenforceable” by the Allegheny Court of County Pleas.
Inconsistent Medical Leave Policies Across Pennsylvania
The PSDA would have provided employees with one hour of paid medical leave for every forty hours worked to cover instances of illness, surgery, doctor’s visits, and other necessary health commitments. These hours could be rolled over from year to year, and employees would be permitted to use them to care for children or family members who fall ill.
The ordinance also would have made Pittsburgh the second city in Pennsylvania to adopt a paid sick leave policy, as Philadelphia’s Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Ordinance has been in place since May 2015.
So why is this policy law in Philadelphia, but “unfeasible” in Pittsburgh? The answer is found in a bit of tricky wording in the state’s legislature, which claims that a Pennsylvania state statute must be passed in order for individual cities to place responsibilities or mandates upon businesses and employers. The five Pittsburgh businesses and the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association that filed the lawsuit against the ordinance claimed that no such statute had been passed, and the court agreed.
Philadelphia’s policy will retain its legal standing (for now) because of a Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law (DPCL) that can be considered a state statute. This unfortunately doesn’t apply to Pittsburgh, since the city doesn’t have a board or department of health like Philadelphia does.
In addition to Philadelphia, four states, one county, and 19 cities across the United States have passed paid sick leave laws, the legal team A Better Balance reports. And according to the Huffington Post, the topic has even become an issue at the federal level, with President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton making their support for the laws public.
The Medical Leave Debate
Proponents of paid sick leave argue that it will increase workplace productivity while making it easier for society’s most disadvantaged to keep their jobs. There are also reasons to believe it would help businesses retain their employees, assist victims of domestic violence, and improve overall public health.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most of the 40% of private-sector workers without any paid sick days work in low-paying hospitality and service jobs. This situation poses a particular health risk: these employees end up coming to work in restaurants, bars, and hotels when they’re sick, passing their illness on to customers. Furthermore, a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that workers who were able to take paid sick leave were 28% less likely to injure themselves while at work.
Most concerning of all, our position on paid sick leave in the global community is a lonely one. The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not provide paid medical leave for its citizens nationwide.
On the other hand, opponents of such measures cite a number of economic arguments, claiming that providing paid medical leave is too costly for employers, and will result in fewer jobs and higher prices on goods and services. For context, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits such as health insurance and medical leave account for 31.4% of all spending on employees, while wages make up the other 68.6%.
The Outlook for Pittsburgh
In both Pittsburgh and across all of Pennsylvania, the legal status of paid sick leave could change in the upcoming year. Republican state senators have approved a bill that would invalidate Philadelphia’s policy, which Democratic Governor Tom Wolf subsequently vetoed, according to the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, legal research outlet Lexology reports that the Pittsburgh mayor’s office may appeal the court’s verdict.
So what should you do if you’re one of the 4 in 10 private sector employees without any sick days? Focus on saving yourself as much money and time as possible so that you’re prepared for illnesses and medical emergencies. And SingleCare is one option that can help you gain access to top-quality doctors and services without unexpected fees, so you can save time and money to stay healthy and on the job.
(Main image credit: Artfoliophoto/Thinkstock)