Pa.: State Senate Passes Bill Pre-empting Philadelphia’s Sick Leave Law

By Rosemarie Lally May 18, 2015
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The Pennsylvania Senate has passed a bill designed to overturn Philadelphia’s new law requiring business owners with at least 10 employees to provide them with paid sick leave.

The city’s leave law, signed Feb.12, 2015, by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and scheduled to go into effect in mid-May, would provide workers of covered employers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Philadelphia is the first city in Pennsylvania and the 17th in the country to offer this benefit.

However, by the time the Philadelphia law was signed, state legislators had already introduced a bill to prevent municipalities from establishing paid sick leave laws or any other kind of mandated time off. The original proposal would not have affected previously enacted ordinances.

Displeased with the developments in Philadelphia, state senators, led by Sen. John Eichelberger, moved March 3 to make the proposed measure banning leave laws retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015. Upon Senate passage, the bill was sent to the House, which referred it to the Labor and Industry Committee April 16.

“The amendment was introduced because we do not want to allow municipalities to try to sneak in changes to local ordinances before this bill is placed into law,” Eichelberger said. “We need to ensure we have a system across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that is uniform. We can’t allow municipalities to put in a hodgepodge system of local ordinances that would be very difficult for people to understand.”

Pennsylvania’s legislature reacted similarly to attempts by municipalities to pass city minimum wage laws in the last decade by passing a 2006 law preempting them from establishing minimum wages above the state standard.

Defending the city’s sick-leave law as "consensus-driven" and a "modest step," Nutter argued that preempting it would "upset the settled expectations of Philadelphia's workers and businesses."

The state’s pre-emptive legislation also is opposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who supports paid sick leave for workers as well as “local municipalities' ability to pass ordinances for leave that they believe will help families and the economy," according to his spokesman.

Rosemarie Lally, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.

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