Court: Pittsburgh sick leave law can stand

HARRISBURG (AP) — Pittsburgh has the authority to require employers to provide paid sick leave for workers, Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled Wednesday in a decision that overturned two lower court decisions and ended a four-year legal battle.

The 4-3 ruling by the state Supreme Court lets the city’s 2015 ordinance stand in a move that a labor union in the case, Service Employees International Union 32BJ, estimates will deliver sick leave pay to 50,000 primarily lower-income workers in Pittsburgh who lack it.

Mayor William Peduto called the decision a “huge win” for people who live and work in Pittsburgh.

“People should not be forced into making the tough decision between staying home sick and missing a day’s pay, or coming in to work and spreading infection,” Peduto said in a statement.

The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, along with several of its members and other groups, had sued and won twice in lower courts.

Philadelphia also requires employers to provide paid sick leave, and advocates knew of no other municipality in Pennsylvania that does so. However, the ruling could free other municipalities to do so.

Pittsburgh’s ordinance requires employers with 15 or more employees to give them up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Employers with fewer than 15 employees must provide up to 24 hours of paid sick leave per year. The mayor’s office could not say Wednesday when it will take effect.

The court’s 46-page decision was written by Justice David Wecht, and joined by three of his fellow Democrats on the court. Dissenting were two Republican justices and one Democrat.

Lower courts had ruled that the home rule charter law prevented Pittsburgh from requiring paid sick leave from employers because it says that municipalities “shall not determine duties, responsibilities or requirements placed upon businesses, occupations and employers.”