On March 29, 2021, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Bill 210122 into law. This legislation provides certain Philadelphia workers with the right to take public health emergency leave during the COVID-19 global pandemic and extends a prior version of this law that sunsets at the end of 2020, with some minor tweaks.
This updated law generally applies to employers who employ 50 or more people. It covers any employee of a covered employer who works a majority of the time in Philadelphia, and has worked for the covered employer for 90-days or more. Under this law, a covered employee is entitled to paid public health emergency leave for the following reasons relating to COVID-19:
- The employee is quarantined because of his or her 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 who is quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19 or because the family member is exhibiting symptoms that might jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- An employee’s need to: (i) self-isolate and care for himself or herself because the employee is diagnosed with COVID-19; (ii) self-isolate and care for himself or herself 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.
- 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.
- The employee needs time off to obtain or recover from a COVID-19 vaccination.
Importantly, the law creates 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 are entitled to up to 80-hours of paid public health emergency leave under this new law. Part-time employees are entitled to pro-rated amount of leave. Under the law, if a covered employee takes time off from work for any of the above reasons relating to COVID-19, he or she 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.
However, there are also a number of key exceptions. The law does not require a covered employer to change an existing leave policy or provide additional paid leave to employees if the covered employer’s existing policy provides 160-hours or more of paid time off in 2021 that is not specifically designated as sick leave, but can be used for the same purposes and under all of the same conditions as set forth for in the law. In addition, a covered employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave available to the employee before the employee is eligible to use 2021 public health emergency leave, unless state or federal law requires otherwise. Furthermore, to the extent that federal or state laws require employers to provide paid leave or paid sick time related to COVID-19, covered employers may substitute leave under the federal or state law for its obligations under this law to the extent they coincide and the relevant federal or state law permits such concurrent use of paid leave.
All paid public health emergency leave that covered employers are mandated to provide under this new Philadelphia law are immediately available to covered employees. The law requires covered employers to provide their employees with notice of their right to paid public health emergency leave. Employees are entitled to use available leave with foreseeable notice.
Also noteworthy, the law provides for strict enforcement. Covered employers are subject to civil liability for interfering with an employee’s right to use Philadelphia paid health emergency leave, or retaliating against any employee who used such leave.
For more information, please contact Lisa Scidurlo at LMSC@stevenslee.com, 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.