Municipalities across the state have implemented COVID-19 ordinances, some of which are designed to protect employees under certain circumstances. In addition to protecting employees who contract the virus, the ordinances passed by the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia also prohibit retaliation against employees who utilized certain protections under the ordinances.
On December 9, 2020, the City of Pittsburgh passed a temporary COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Ordinance. The Ordinance requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide for up to 80 hours of paid time off for employees who have been impacted by COVID-19. For instance, covered employees under the Ordinance may be entitled to collect paid time off under four specific scenarios:
(1) If an employee would be a health risk to others due to exposure to COVID-19, or due to that employee exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
(2) If an employee must care for a family member due to that family member due to exposure to COVID-19, or due to that family member showing symptoms of COVID-19.
(3) If an employee needs to quarantine due to being diagnosed with COVID-19, showing symptoms of COVID-19, or needs to seek diagnosis or other care for COVID-19.
(4) If an employee must care for a family member who needs to quarantine or otherwise seek treatment or diagnosis for COVID-19
Notably, the City of Pittsburgh prohibits retaliation against an employee for using or attempting to use, time off under the Ordinance.
On January 28, 2021, discharged employees filed a lawsuit claiming unlawful retaliation under Philadelphia's COVID-19 Ordinance. Bellinger et al. v. Old Pine Community Center, No. 210101867 (Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. 2021). In the complaint, five former community center employees claim that they were terminated in retaliation for raising concerns about the community center's failure to abide by COVID-19 protocols seeking back pay, benefits, and sick leave.
Prior to their termination, the former employees sent a letter to the community center leaders, claiming that the community center failed to implement necessary safety measures. According to the complaint, the community center fired the former employees a little over a week after receiving the letter. This lawsuit illustrates the potential applicability and operation of the anti-retaliation provisions contained in COVID-19 ordinances.
As COVID-19 continues to surge, and impact every aspect of business, the uncertainty seems endless. We are working diligently with our clients to efficiently adapt to these extraordinary challenges in the workplace.
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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.