Paid Sick Days Advocates Prevail in Pittsburgh

July 18, 2019 -- Heather Appel

Statement on the PA Supreme Court Ruling on Paid Sick Days

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that Pittsburgh can require private employers to provide paid sick leave. The ruling turns back an industry challenge to Pittsburgh’s landmark law that provides paid sick leave to an estimated 50,000 low wage workers. 

“This is a great victory for the communities in Pittsburgh who fought for and won paid sick leave and were wrongly denied it by corporate interference,” said Lauren Jacobs, the Partnership’s Executive Director. “I'm glad the Court respected the voices of Pittsburgh residents and their determination that paid sick days are a public health issue and therefore in the interest of the common good.”

Partnership affiliate Pittsburgh United brought together a coalition of over 20 community, faith, labor, environmental, and public health organizations and thousands of community members to win passage of the paid sick leave law in 2015. Shortly thereafter, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association challenged the law under a state law that limits local regulation of businesses. The Partnership helped defend the law in court, co-authoring an amicus brief with Women’s Law Project (WLP) that showed the critical public health issues at stake, including how striking down the law would disproportionately harm  women and people of color, who are overrepresented among workers without sick leave, more likely to be exposed to illness on the job, and among those with the most caregiving responsibilities. The Court noted the WLP/Partnership brief in its opinion.

The ruling represents another major reversal of the national trend toward corporate-sponsored state interference, in which corporate interests use state law to undo or block local efforts to pass policies that advance racial and economic justice. Earlier this year, Colorado repealed its prohibition of local minimum wage laws. The prior year, Oregon repealed its prohibition of local inclusionary housing measures. Now, Pennsylvania has paved the way for local paid sick leave measures.

For more background on state preemption, read our report: For All of Us, By All of Us: Challenging State Interference to Advance Gender and Racial Justice