On February 11, 2021, Philadelphia City Councilmember Kendra Brooks and 10 other members of City Council introduced legislation that would require employers of 50 or more individuals in Philadelphia to offer paid public health emergency leave for a number of reasons relating to COVID-19.  This bill is designed to extend a prior COVID-19 paid sick leave law that sunset at the end of 2020.

This bill, if enacted into law, would require applicable employers to provide employees who work a majority of the time in Philadelphia with paid public health emergency leave in the following circumstances:

  • A determination by a public official or public health authority having jurisdiction, a health care provider, or an employer that the employee’s presence on the job or in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the employee’s exposure to COVID-19 or because the employee is exhibiting symptoms that might jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • To care for a family member of the employee due to a determination by a public official or health authority having jurisdiction, a health care provider, or the family member’s employer that the presence of the family member on the job or in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member’s exposure to COVID-19 or a determination by the employer that the employee is a danger to the health of others because they are exhibiting symptoms that might jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the family member has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • An employee’s need to: (i) self-isolate and care for oneself because the employee is diagnosed with COVID-19; (ii) self-isolate and care for oneself because the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; (iii) seek or obtain medical diagnosis, care, or treatment if experiencing symptoms of an illness related to COVID-19;
  • To care for a family member who: (i) is self-isolating due to being diagnosed with COVID-19; (ii) is self-isolating due to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; (iii) needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment if experiencing symptoms of an illness related to COVID-19; or
  • To care for a child if the school or place of care of the child has been closed, or the childcare provider of such child is unavailable, due to precautions taken in accordance with the public health emergency response.

Importantly, this bill would create an entirely new bucket of paid leave that is separate from and in addition to any other paid leave that is provided to covered employees, including any paid health emergency leave and/or FFCRA leave that was used by covered employees in calendar year 2020.  Covered full-time employees who regularly work 40-hours or more would be entitled to up to 80-hours of paid public health emergency leave under this legislation.  Part-time employees would be entitled to pro-rated amount of leave.  Under the bill, if a covered employee takes time off from work for any of the above reasons relating to COVID-19, the covered employee would first need to exhaust their bucket of paid public health emergency leave before they would be required or allowed to use any other accrued paid time off, such as regular paid sick, vacation, or personal time.

All paid public health emergency leave that employers would be mandated to provide under this legislation would be immediately available to covered employees retroactive to January 1, 2021.  This means that if the bill is passed, any covered employee who already took time off in 2021 for any COVID-19 reason discussed above will be entitled to the return of any accrued paid time off that was used to pay them during their leave, and any unpaid time off will need to be compensated.  The bill would require employers to provide covered employees with notice of their right to paid public health emergency leave.  Employees would be entitled to use available leave with foreseeable notice.

The bill further provides for strict enforcement.  Employers would be subject to civil liability for interfering with a covered employee’s right to use paid health emergency leave, or retaliating against any covered employee who used such leave.

The bill is currently before the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Public Health and Human Services.  It is expected that the Committee will hold a hearing on this bill on March 2, 2021.

For more information, please contact Daniel Sobol at DJSO@stevenslee.com, Wade Albert at WDA@stevenslee.com, or reach out to the Stevens & Lee attorney with whom you regularly work.