​Philadelphia Joins Growing List of Cities with Paid Sick Leave Laws

Act Now Advisory

Epstein Becker Green Labor and Employment On February 12, 2015, the Philadelphia City Council passed the “Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces” Ordinance (“Ordinance”), requiring private employers with 10 or more employees in the city of Philadelphia to provide paid sick time. The Ordinance will become effective on May 13, 2015.

Philadelphia joins several other cities in passing mandatory paid sick time laws, including New York City, Newark (New Jersey), San Francisco, and Washington, DC, among others. Recently, states such as California and Massachusetts established paid sick time requirements as well.

The Ordinance ensures that Philadelphia employers provide employees with paid sick time, which may be used for several purposes, including an employee’s own or an employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or need for preventative care, or an employee’s absence due to domestic violence or sexual assault. An “employee” under the Ordinance includes any individual who works at least 40 hours per year within the city of Philadelphia. The Ordinance expressly excludes from the definition of “employee” independent contractors, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, interns, pool employees, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and short-term employees. The Ordinance defines “family member” broadly to include children, stepchildren, or foster children; a parent, stepparent, or foster parent; a person to whom the employee is legally married; a grandparent or grandparent’s spouse; grandchildren; a sibling, stepsibling, or foster sibling; or the employee’s spouse or “life partner,” which is defined as a member of a long-term committed relationship between two unmarried cohabitating individuals of the same gender.

Employees accumulate sick time at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked in Philadelphia, up to a maximum of 40 hours. Sick time accumulation begins on the first day of employment. Further, employers may limit the use of sick time to 40 hours per year. Accrued, unused sick time must be carried over to a subsequent calendar year, unless the employer front-loads 40 hours of sick time at the beginning of each year.

The Ordinance does not require employers to pay for accrued, unused sick time upon termination, resignation, retirement, or separation. Finally, an employer with a paid leave policy (e.g., vacation days, sick days, short-term disability, or personal days) sufficient to meet or exceed the accrual and use requirements and that may be used for the same purposes and conditions as sick time under the Ordinance, is not required to provide additional sick time due to the passage of the Ordinance.

Other aspects of the Ordinance include the following:

  • Employees are entitled to use sick time beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of their employment.
  • Accrued sick time may be used in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increments that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or the use of other time.
  • When the need for leave is foreseeable, an employee must provide notice to the employer in advance of the use of sick time, and must make a reasonable effort to schedule sick leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
  • When the need for leave is unforeseeable, an employee must notify the employer before the start of the employee’s scheduled work hours, or as soon as practicable if the need arises.
  • Employers may require documentation signed by a health care provider for leave lasting longer than two consecutive days.
  • Employers may not discharge, suspend, demote, or take any other adverse action against an employee who attempts to exercise or has exercised rights protected under the Ordinance.
  • The Ordinance has specific notice and posting requirements, and information about the Ordinance must be included in employee handbooks.

Finally, remedies for violations of this law include back pay, attorneys’ fees, fines up to $2,000 for withholding leave, and $100 for failure to post the required notice.

What Philadelphia Employers Should Do Now

  • Review leave policies to ensure compliance with the minimum requirements of the Ordinance.
  • If policies are not sufficient as written, modify policies by May 13, 2015.
  • Watch for publication on the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ website of a notice and poster to be distributed and displayed to employees, and once published, ensure proper notice is provided and posting is instituted.
  • Ensure accurate and sufficient recordkeeping of hours worked and sick time taken by employees.
  • Train managers about the non-retaliation provisions in the Ordinance.


For more information about this Advisory, please contact:

William J. Milani
New York
[email protected]
Susan Gross Sholinsky
New York
[email protected]
Nancy L. Gunzenhauser
New York
[email protected]
Kristopher D. Reichardt
New York
[email protected]