PITTSBURGH — Last month, a judge in Allegheny County struck down a Pittsburgh law that required employers to pay their employees a mandated amount of sick leave.
The Pittsburgh City Council introduced and enacted the legislation earlier in 2015, invoking its alleged authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. According to the ordinance, employers would be required to pay for one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked.
According to the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association and five other businesses that filed the lawsuit challenging the ordinance, the creation of the policy was both unlawful in its process and content - a bad deal for Pittsburgh, they argued.
It is unclear whether there will be an appeal from the defendants. Melissa Bova, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, remains aware of the opposition in the dispute over home rule rights.
“While we are relieved that the law has been struck down, we are also very cognizant that this is not the last battle we will fight,” Bova said.
Common Pleas Judge Joseph James agreed with the plaintiffs, rejecting the ordinance on Dec. 21. He upheld Bova’s claims that the law would not be beneficial for the city, furthermore calling it “invalid and unenforceable.”
“Pittsburgh is not a large city — when you mandate something for businesses in one location, it puts them at a disadvantage to businesses everywhere else," she said.
"In addition, when a law is passed that paints a business with five employees with the same brush as 500 employees, you are not taking into consideration the vast differences between the two entities.
“Government mandates come with a cost, no matter the intentions behind them. Many small businesses are barely getting by as it is.”
James referenced a 2009 state Supreme Court case that upheld the rights of employers against state regulation.
Bova and her colleagues agreed with the judge and cited a charter that protects businesses and employers of all sizes from being forced to act under state mandates.
“We believe that the law very clearly states that the paid leave mandate in Pittsburgh is in violation of the Home Rule Charter, which the Judge also agreed with,” Bova said.
“This was an extremely frustrating thing for us — having to go to court to strike down a law that even the Council members who passed it knew was illegal. These are initiatives that unions and their front groups are funneling millions of dollars into, and we faced horrible attacks during a process that we never should have had to go through in the first place."
In a similar case in 2006, the city council and the Service Employees International Union unanimously passed "The Protection of Displaced Workers Ordinance” in reaction to an incident in which nine union workers were replaced with nonunion workers.
Judge R. Stanton Wettick also ruled in favor of state home rule laws, providing even more support to the court’s stance on state mandates regarding Pittsburgh employers.