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Allegheny County Sick Leave Bill Sails Through Committee, Final Vote Expected Next Week

Jared Murphy
90.5 WESA
Republican Cindy Kirk chairs Allegheny County Council's health and human services committee. She joined the rest of the committee in supporting a proposed paid sick time mandate Wednesday, Sept. 8, despite previously opposing the idea.

An Allegheny County Council committee has unanimously endorsed a proposal to require paid sick time at workplaces across the county.

The seven-member health and human services committee approved the measure without debate Wednesday. The bill returns to the full council, with a final vote slated for Tuesday.

The legislation would guarantee up to five paid sick days a year for people who work full-time at companies with at least 26 employees. It is expected to survive next week’s council vote.

In March, councilors voted 10-4 to pass a nearly identical policy. But that measure died when County Executive Rich Fitzgerald vetoed it.

At the time, Fitzgerald said he supports paid sick time protections but that, under state law, the county’s Board of Health must first approve such health regulations.

The health board passed its own sick leave rules, which mostly mirror the vetoed council bill, in July. Fitzgerald introduced the new legislation at council last week. The councilors may only vote to pass or reject it, with no option to alter individual provisions.

Backers say sick leave will reduce the spread of disease by allowing ill workers to stay home without sacrificing pay. While some worry about the cost to employers, support for the mandate appears to have grown since March. Republican health and human services committee chair Cindy Kirk voted in favor of the policy Wednesday, even though she had voted against council’s previous sick days bill in March.

Last week, Kirk said that, once the Board of Health greenlit its own version of the regulation, she felt reassured that it would not face a legal challenge that could further disrupt businesses.

An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.