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Allegheny County Judge Strikes Down City of Pittsburgh Ordinances Requiring Paid Sick Days for Pittsburgh Employers and Training Requirements for Large Building Owners

Allegheny County Judge Joseph M. James recently struck down two City of Pittsburgh Ordinances that impacted businesses located within the City of Pittsburgh:  the “Paid Sick Days Act,” which was passed by City Council on August 3rd, 2015 and Signed by the Mayor on August 13, 2015, and the “Safe and Security Building Act,” which was passed on May 12, 2015 and sighed by the Mayor on May 14, 2015.


The “Paid Sick Days Act” required employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours an employee worked, up to 40 hours of sick leave per year if the business had 15 or more employees, and up to 24 hours per year if the business had fewer than 15 employees.  Council passed the measure despite a warning from the City Law Department that it could be vulnerable to a legal challenge.


The “Safe and Security Building Act” required owners of buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to provide a minimum of forty (40) hours of initial instruction, and an annual eight (8)-hour refresher course, from a training school certified by the Fire Bureau on areas, including the use of force, terrorism detection and emergency response.


Both ordinances were challenged as unconstitutional by business groups prior to their effective dates, and had been put on hold by Judge James pending arguments.  Citing a 2009 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, Judge James struck down the “Safe and Security Building Act” on December 17, 2015, and struck down the “Paid Sick Days Act” on December 21, 2015.  Judge James held that the ordinances were “invalid and unenforceable” because Pittsburgh lacks the authority to impose such requirements on a private business under its Home Rule Charter. In his opinion regarding the “Paid Sick Days Act,” Judge James stated that “[t]here are limitations on the city’s authority to enact any ordinance determining any duty, responsibility or requirement of a business or private employer.”


These decisions emphasize the limited authority a city organized under a Home Rule Charter has over compel private entities.