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April 2022: Philadelphia Reinstates Mask Mandate Requirements

Update Applicable to:
All businesses that provide public indoor spaces in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On April 11, 2022, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced that it has moved into the “Mask Precautions” pandemic response level and will reinstate the City’s indoor mask mandate for most indoor spaces.

What are the details?
Effective April 18, 2022, face coverings will be required in all indoor public spaces, including businesses, restaurants, government buildings, childcare settings, and schools. While masks will be required in indoor public places, there is no vaccine requirement for places that serve food or drink.

The mandate will remain in place until the city metrics fall into the “All Clear” category, which takes into account average daily COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and case increases over a 10-day period.

For more information, please see the links below:

Philadelphia Department of Public Health Announcement

COVID Response Levels

City of Philadelphia Article

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and reinstate and/or adjust their masking policies to be in compliance with the reinstated law.

March 2022: Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Paid Leave is Now in Effect

Update Applicable to:
All employers with 25 or more employees in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What happened?
On March 10, 2022, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney signed into law the third iteration of the Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) law, which goes into effect immediately and will sunset on December 23, 2023.

What are the details?
Eligibility

The third iteration of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 paid leave mandate applies to employers who have 25 or more employees and has a broad standard for employee eligibility, covering those who work for a covered employer and either:

  • currently works in the city,
  • normally works in the city but is currently teleworking due to COVID-19, or
  • works from multiple locations and spends a majority of their work time in the city.

Using Existing Paid Leave Benefits

In general, COVID-19 leave benefits are in addition to all other paid leave benefits an employer provides, and an employer cannot reduce the amount of COVID-19 leave it must provide by the amount of paid leave an employee previously received. Under limited circumstances, however, employers can use pre-existing benefits to satisfy COVID-19 eave requirements in whole or part:

  • Teleworkers: When employees complete the majority of their work through telework, employers need not change existing policies or provide additional paid leave if existing policies provide teleworking employees with at least 80 hours of paid leave in 2022, and employees can use such paid leave for the same purposes and under all of the same conditions as set forth under the ordinance.
  • Generous Paid Leave Policies: An employer need not change an existing leave policy or provide additional paid leave to employees if its policy provides at least 120 hours of paid time off in 2022 whether such leave is specifically designated as sick leave, if employees can use such leave for the same purposes and under all of the same conditions as the ordinance requires (in 2021, it was 160 hours). Additionally, a provision that differs from the 2021 ordinance provides that, for employers that operate on a 7.5-hour workday and consider an employee working 37.5 hours a week to be a full-time employee, the amount of leave required to qualify for this exemption is 112.5 hours.
  • COVID-19 Paid Leave Policies: If an employer adopted a policy that provides employees additional paid time off specifically for use during COVID-19, it may substitute leave under that policy for COVID-19 leave to the extent they coincide. Employers must provide additional COVID-19 leave only to the extent that the ordinance’s requirements exceed their COVID-19 paid leave policy’s requirements. Unlike the 2021 law, there is no express requirement that the policy had to be adopted on or after March 6, 2020, but it is unlikely many employers adopted COVID-19 leave policies before that date.

Amount of Leave

Employers must provide – rather than have employees accrue – the following amounts of paid COVID-19 leave, which is less than what they had to provide under the 2021 ordinance:

  • Employees who work 40 or more hours per week receive at least 40 hours, unless their employer provides a greater amount (in 2021, it was 80 hours).
  • Employees who work fewer than 40 hours per week receive an amount equal to the amount of time they are scheduled to work or actually work on average in a seven-day period, whichever is greater, unless the employer provides a greater amount.
  • Employees whose weekly schedule varies receive the average number of daily hours that the employee was scheduled over the past 90 days of work, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type, multiplied by seven.

Covered Uses

The law’s covered uses provision is nearly identical to that of the 2021 law, except for a few minor changes. Leave is available for immediate use when employees are unable to work due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • care for the employee’s own self or a family member who has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating due to COVID-19 exposure;
  • childcare or school closure; and
  • receiving a COVID-19 vaccine (including booster) or recovering from COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

Employees can use COVID-19 leave in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time. An employer cannot require an employee to use other paid sick leave available to the employee, e.g., pre-COVID-19 statutory Philadelphia paid sick leave, before the employee is eligible to use COVID-19 leave unless state or federal law requires otherwise.

Employer Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements:

Employers must provide employees with a notice of their rights under the COVID-19 leave mandate within 15 days of the mandate becoming law.  Although not specified, if the 15 days are measured as calendar days, covered employers will need to provide their employees with a copy of the notice by March 24, 2022.

The mandate’s model notice has been posted and can be found here.

Prohibitions

The ordinance includes numerous prohibitions, expressly or by incorporating standards in the pre-COVID Philadelphia paid sick leave ordinance. For example, as a condition of providing COVID-19 leave, employers cannot require employees to search for or find a replacement to cover the hours during which they are using leave. Employers cannot reduce the amount of any paid leave an employee could use or accrue under the employer’s existing policies as of the ordinance’s effective date. Employers cannot take retaliatory personnel action or discriminate against an employee who exercises rights protected by the ordinance.

For more information, please see the links below:

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

PHEL Model Notice

Article 1Article 2Article 3

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, make immediate adjustments to their paid sick leave policies, provide the PHEL notice to employees and post in a conspicuous location, and determine whether and how they can comply via existing policies or, alternatively, how to develop a compliant,

March 2022: City of Philadelphia Lifts Mask Mandate

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What happened?
On March 2, 2022, the city of Philadelphia announced that it has moved into the “All Clear COVID Response Level,” in response to dropping cases of COVID-19.

What are the details?
Effective immediately, all individuals will no longer be required to wear a face covering; however, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health has stressed that businesses may still require masks, and that the City may reinstate the mask mandate if COVID-19 cases rise, or a new variant develops. 

In addition, masks will still be required in certain higher risk settings, healthcare institutions, congregate settings, and on public transportation. 

For more information, please see the links below:

City of Philadelphia Announcement

City of Philadelphia COVID-19 Response Levels

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the link provided above, ensure the safety of their employees and guests, and reach out to the local health department in case of any specific and new rules.

March 2022: Pittsburgh Expands Workplace Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Update Applicable to:
All employers with five or more employees in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What happened?
On December 6, 2021, then-Mayor Bill Peduto, signed Bill No. 2021-2185 amending the city’s workplace anti-discrimination ordinance to include victims of domestic violence as a protected class.

What are the details?
Under the amended ordinance, employers with five or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their actual or perceived status as victims of domestic violence and must attempt to reasonably accommodate such individuals, if needed. The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, which is tasked with enforcing the ordinance, also established and released employer guidance (which can be found in the Legislation details here), shedding more light on these new requirements.

Under the ordinance and its accompanying guidance, an employer (including an employment agency or labor union) may not refuse to hire, treat less favorably, or deny a person employment, membership, or participation in a program based on his or her status as a survivor of domestic violence. In addition, an employer may not retaliate against an individual for seeking protection under the ordinance or implement policies that disproportionately impact employees based on their protected status.

Notably, the guidance also requires employers to engage in an interactive process with employees who need reasonable accommodations based on their status as domestic violence victims. Examples of potential reasonable accommodations, according to the guidance, include the following:

  • Modifying the layout of a workspace
  • Adjusting work schedules
  • Allowing for leave (e.g., for a court date or medical appointment)
  • Enhancing policies to ensure security
  • Transfer or reassignment
  • Changing a telephone number or email
  • Installing a lock or security device
  • Developing code words to allow employees to safely signal a need for help, such as security or police

An employer need not grant a specific accommodation if doing so would impose an undue hardship on its financial or administrative operations.

The guidance warns that “it can be harmful for the employer to demand ‘proof’” of an individual’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, and the guidance is silent as to whether an employer may request supporting documentation (e.g., police or court records) in response to a request for leave. An employer may document the information provided by the employee during the reasonable accommodation interactive process.

For more information, please see the links below.

Bill No. 2021-2185

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and prepare to provide any accommodations for victims of domestic abuse so long as it does not impose any hardship on its financial or administrative operations.

December 2021: Philadelphia Ban on Pre-Hire Marijuana Testing Takes Effect January 1, 2022

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What happened?
In our previous communication, we informed you about Bill No. 200625. This is a reminder about the law.

What are the details?
Effective January 1, 2022, employers are prohibited from testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment.

This Bill does not affect all employers; the prohibition does not apply to individuals applying to work in the following professions.

  • Police officer or other law enforcement positions.
  • Any position requiring a commercial driver’s license.
  • Any position requiring the supervision or care of children, medical patients, disabled or other vulnerable individuals.
  • Any position in which the employee could significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public, as determined by the enforcement agency and set forth in regulations pursuant to the Bill.

It also does not apply to drug testing required pursuant to:

  • Any federal or state statute, regulation, or order that requires drug testing of prospective employees for purposes of safety or security.
  • Any contract between the federal government and an employer or any grant of financial assistance from the federal government to an employer that requires drug testing of prospective employees as a condition of receiving the contract or grant.
  • Any applicants whose prospective employer is a party to a valid collective bargaining agreement that specifically addresses the pre-employment drug testing of such applicants.

The Bill will also require that the agency, decided by the mayor, will be tasked with the responsibility for enforcement to make the regulations widely known for the implementation and administration of the new requirements.

For more information, please see the links below:

Bill No. 200625

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and make adjustments to their hiring and drug testing policies to stay in compliance with the new law.

December 2021: City of Philadelphia Announces Food Establishment Vaccine Mandate

Update Applicable to:
All employers of food establishments in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On December 13, 2021, the Philadelphia Department of Health announced a vaccine mandate for patrons and staff of all establishments that sell food or drink for on-site consumption within Philadelphia city limits.

What are the details?
Starting on January 3, 2022, any establishment in Philadelphia that sells food and/or drink for consumption on-site may admit only those patrons who have completed their vaccine series against COVID-19.

For the first two weeks of this mandate, January 3 through 17, establishments may choose to accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry in lieu of proof of vaccination. After January 17, negative COVID-19 tests can no longer be accepted in lieu of proof of vaccination.

Staff and children aged five years and three months through 11 will be required to have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by January 3 and to complete their vaccine series by February 3.

Anyone exempt persons will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry into an establishment that seats 1,000 or more people. This requirement does not apply to children under age two who cannot be tested easily for COVID-19.

This vaccine mandate applies to places like:

  • Indoor restaurant spaces
  • Cafes within larger areas (e.g., museum cafes)
  • Bars
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for on-site consumption
  • Movie theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for on-site consumption
  • Conventions (if food is being served)
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos where food and drink are allowed on the floor
  • Food court seating areas should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to the seating area

This vaccine mandate does not apply in places like:

  • K-12 and early childcare settings
  • Hospitals
  • Congregate care facilities or other residential or healthcare facilities
  • Outdoor restaurant spaces
  • Grocery stores, except in seated dining areas within those stores, convenience stores, or other establishments that primarily sell food and other articles for offsite use
  • Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurant or seated bar-style locations
  • Soup kitchens or other sites serving vulnerable populations (e.g., Hub of Hope)
  • This mandate excludes masked individuals who are entering an indoor establishment for a short duration or transitory purpose (e.g., less than 15 minutes, picking up food, using the bathroom)

For more information, please see the links below:

City of Philadelphia Vaccine Mandate Announcement

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and prepare to update vaccination policies for employees and patrons of their establishment once the mandate goes into effect on January 3, 2022.

October 2021: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Enacts Paid Sick Leave

Update Applicable to:

All employers with 26 or more employees working within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny Country

What happened?

On September 14, 2021, Allegheny County Council approved a new paid sick leave ordinance.

What are the details?

The ordinance’s requirements are effective immediately, and the remainder of the ordinance takes effect 90 calendar days following the county’s posting of the notice information for employers. Additionally, the ordinance does not apply to independent contractors, state and federal employees or certain seasonal employees.

The ordinance mandates that employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours worked within the geographical boundaries of Allegheny County, unless the employer provides a faster accrual rate. Employees may accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year (any regular and consecutive 12-month period as defined by the employer) and may use the time:

  • for the diagnosis, care, or treatment (including preventative care) of the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or
  • to care for a family with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or, who needs medical diagnosis, care or treatment (including preventive care) of same; or
  • if the employee’s place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed for that reason; or
  • to care for a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities or a health care provider that the family member’s presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member’s exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the family member has actually contracted the communicable disease.

The county ordinance contains notice requirements for employers as well as requirements for employees requesting paid sick time. Employers have the option of permitting employees to:

  • carry over accrued paid sick time so long as the total paid sick time available does not exceed 40 hours per year; or
  • front load the 40 hours, in which case no carry-over policy would be necessary. Employees begin to accrue paid sick leave at the commencement of employment and are entitled to use accrued paid sick time beginning on the 90th day of employment.

For more information, please see the links below:

Paid Sick Leave Ordinance: Link 1, Link 2

Article

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the ordinance and their current policies on leave to make any applicable changes to stay compliance with the new ordinance. Vensure will provide an update when the county provides the posting notice information.

 

August 2021 Pennsylvania HR Legal Updates

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Enacted in Pittsburgh

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On July 29, 2021, Mayor Peduto signed the Temporary COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (626B) into law.

What are the details?
The law, effective immediately and through July 27, 2022, is similar to the previously enacted 626A that was in effect through June 17, 2021, but has some key differences.

The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to immediately provide emergency COVID-19 Sick Time (CST) without a waiting or accrual period once they have been employed by the employer for 90 days.  CST shall be provided in addition to any paid leave or sick time provided by the Employer. The balance calculations are as follows:

CST shall be provided to Employees for the following absences if they are unable to work in person or telework, related to COVID-19:

The law can be found here.

An article on the law is here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law to update their leave policies and provide the new leave to applicable employees.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Mandatory Security Checks Considered Compensable Hours Worked

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On July 21, 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found in “Re:Amazon.com, Inc., No. EAP 2019” that employees waiting for and undergoing mandatory security screenings is always compensable as hours worked.

What are the details?
In the decision by Pennsylvania Supreme Court, it was concluded that time spent at a mandatory security check on the employer’s premises must be compensated.

This is based on the definition of “Hours worked” that is defined by Pennsylvania regulations to include “time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer, to be on duty or to be at the prescribed workplace, … and provided further, that time spent on the premises of the employer for the convenience of the employee shall be excluded.” under 34 Pa. Code §231.1.

The court documents can be found here.

An article on the court decision can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review their payroll policies and make any applicable updates to stay in compliance with the decision made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Philadelphia Implements Mask Mandate

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Philadelphia do not mandate vaccinations for employees, patrons, and guests.

What happened?
On August 11, 2021, Mayor Kenney announced a new mask mandate for the City of Philadelphia.

What are the details?
Effective August 12, 2021, the mandate requires employers to require masks for all persons within and entering their business and must also monitor compliance. Businesses that mandate vaccinations or require proof of vaccination for everyone that entered their doors are exempt from the new rule.

Masks will also be required at all non-seated outdoor events in Philadelphia, with more than 1,000 attendees. An update on August 13, 2021, states that essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and urgent cares must require masks for all staff and patrons and will not be able to utilize the vaccination exception. In regard to city employees, all employees working for the City of Philadelphia must wear double masks while working unless they are fully vaccinated, and all employees hired after September 1, 2021, must be vaccinated.

The mandate can be read here.

An article on the mandate is found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the mandate and their mask policies to make applicable updates to keep them in compliance with the City of Philadelphia.

July 2021 Pennsylvania HR Legal Updates

Salary Threshold for Exemption is Repealed in Pennsylvania 

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Pennsylvania. 

What happened?
On July 9, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf agreed to repeal new exempt executive, administrative and professional (EAP) salary thresholds with HB 336. 

What are the details?
The bill, effective September 7, 2021, repealed the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s (DLI’s) previously enacted rule under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA) that substantially increased the salary threshold needed for an employee to qualify as an exempt EAP employee in an agreed exchange to provide additional funding for schools. The standards will restore to those prior to 2020 and the entire regulatory framework that defines the EAP exemptions that have been in effect since 1977.  

At this time there is no regulatory definition to confirm the definition of an exempt EAP employee, but the PMWA statute continues to provide that bona fide EAP employees remain exempt. 

The bill can be read here

An article on the law can be read here. 

What do employers need to do?
Employers should familiarize themselves with the law and the repeal of the previous rule on EAP employee exemption thresholds to update any applicable workplace policies. 

 

May 2021 Pennsylvania HR Legal Updates

Philadelphia Passes Law Restricting Pre-Employment Marijuana Tests

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On April 28, 2021, Bill No. 200625 was passed by Mayor Kenney.

What are the details?
Bill No. 200625 was signed to be effective as of January 1, 2022. This bill prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of marijuana as a condition of employment. This bill does not impact all employers, the prohibition does not apply to individuals applying to work in the following professions.

  • Police officer or other law enforcement positions;
  • Any position requiring a commercial driver’s license;
  • Any position requiring the supervision or care of children, medical patients, disabled or other vulnerable individuals;
  • Any position in which the employee could significantly impact the health or safety of other employees or members of the public, as determined by the enforcement agency and set forth in regulations pursuant to the bill.

It also does not apply to drug testing required pursuant to:

  • Any federal or state statute, regulation, or order that requires drug testing of prospective employees for purposes of safety or security;
  • Any contract between the federal government and an employer, or any grant of financial assistance from the federal government to an employer that requires drug testing of prospective employees as a condition of receiving the contract or grant; or
  • Any applicants whose prospective employer is a party to a valid collective bargaining agreement that specifically addresses the pre-employment drug testing of such applicants.

The bill will also require that the agency, which is decided by the mayor, will be tasked with the responsibility for enforcement to make the regulations widely known for the implementation and administration of the new requirements.

The bill can be read here.

A reference article can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should follow the guidelines listed in the bill to continue to stay in compliance once the bill is active.

 ________________________________________________________________________________

Philadelphia Updates Workplace Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
On May 11, 2021, Bill No. 210249 was passed into law.

What are the details?
Bill No. 210249 was passed into law on May 11, 2021, and to be immediately enacted to strengthen workplace protections for victims of domestic violence. The bill adds “coercive control” to the definition of “domestic abuse” under the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces bill used by the city’s unpaid safe time leave ordinance: Entitlement to Leave due to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking Ordinance.

Under both laws, “coercive control” will mean:

“A pattern of threatening, humiliating, or intimidating actions toward an individual used to punish or frighten the individual, including but not limited to a pattern of behavior that, in effect, takes away the individual’s liberty, freedom, or sense of self, safety, or bodily integrity; including, but not limited to, a pattern of one or more of the following actions:

  • Isolating the victim from support networks;
  • Controlling the victim’s economic and other resources, such as transportation;
  • Closely monitoring the victim’s activities, communications, or movements;
  • Repetitively degrading and demeaning the victim;
  • Threatening to kill or harm the victim or the victim’s children or relatives or pets; or to take steps to separate the victim from the victim’s children and or pets;
  • Threatening to publish or publishing sexualized, false, or embarrassing information, videos, photographs, or other depictions of the victim;
  • Damaging or taking the victim’s property or possessions;
  • Displaying or referring to weapons as a means to intimidate or threaten; or
  • Forcing the victim to engage in unlawful activity.”

Both of the ordinances will allow employees to take job-protected leave for reasons not limited to themselves, but also if a family member is a victim of domestic violence. The amounts for leave and pay status will be varied based on the employer size and type of leave being requested.

Bill No. 210249 can be read here.

A reference article can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the law and guidance to ensure compliance with the new definition.

 ________________________________________________________________________________

Reminder: Unemployment Notice Requirements for Pennsylvania Employers

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What happened?
In March 2020, Governor Wolf signed Act 9 of 2020.

What are the details?
Employers should remember that while Act 9 was signed in response to the pandemic, it is a permanent requirement for any laid-off employee who may make an unemployment claim. The notice requirement of Act 9 must include the following information:

  1. The “availability of unemployment compensation benefits to workers who are unemployed and who meet the requirements” of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law;
  2. The “ability of an employee to file an unemployment compensation claim in the first week that employment stops or work hours are reduced” (i.e. eliminating the seven-day waiting period);
  3. The “availability of assistance or information about an unemployment compensation claim” on the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry or by calling its toll-free phone number (888) 313-7284; and
  4. “That the employee will need certain information to file a claim, including:
    1. the employee’s full legal name;
    2. the employee’s Social Security number; and
    3. if not a citizen or resident of the United States, authorization to work in the United States.”

The Department of Labor and Industry has provided a template notice for employers to use, which can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should ensure they are complying with the notice requirement. If they are not already, employers should adopt the model notice provided by the Department of Labor and Industry to remove any uncertainty in compliance with the requirement.

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