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City Council Holds Paid Sick Days Act

Pittsburgh City Council voted on Wednesday to hold the Paid Sick Days Act for one week so the bill can be amended and council can hold a public hearing July 30.

Councilman Corey O’Connor of Squirrel Hill agreed to amend his own bill. In it's original form, the bill required businesses with 15 or more employees allow workers to accrue up to 72 hours of paid sick leave per year, and those with less than 15 employees up to 40 hours of leave. An employee would have to work 30 hours to earn one hour of sick leave.

O'Connor's amendment significantly limits those hours. Employees at larger companies can earn one hour of sick pay for every 35 hours worked, with an annual maximum of 40 hours paid sick leave. Smaller companies would allow a maximum of 24 hours paid sick leave.

Concerns from local coalitions and business owners have flooded his office since O’Connor first introduced the bill earlier this month, he said, so he crunched the numbers for Pittsburgh in comparison to other paid sick leave laws nationwide.

“A lot of cities didn’t offer that many days, and I think what we saw from the business community is the costs that would be associated to it,” he said. “So we tried to pattern ourselves off what the average was nationally.”

According to O'Connor, most cities or states with paid sick leave laws require employees to work between 30 and 40 hours a week to earn one hour of leave, including Philadelphia. That law took effect in May and requires 40 hours.

About 40 percent of private sector employees in Pittsburgh don’t offer paid sick days, he said. That accounts for about 77 percent of the city's service workers.

O’Connor said authors also included an amendment protecting businesses that currently have paid sick leave policies that offer the required number of hours, depending on their size. He said he hopes to address how the bill will affect seasonal workers and other fringe concerns in the next week.

The bill has three co-sponsors, excluding O’Connor, which is one vote short for passage. The councilman said he's hopeful other members will co-sponsor before the final vote.

“We’re on a good pace to maybe get more and more, which would really show strength from council, and I think some more technical amendments would get us to that point,” he said.

Any new amendments will be presented Wednesday. A preliminary vote could follow the same day, with opportunities for public input at 1 p.m. July 30.

“We want to make sure everything is perfectly sound so that we do have a bill that helps our workforce, our health and (the) well-being of every resident,” O’Connor said.