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Pittsburgh councilman pushes bill to require paid sick leave for employees

| Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 3:43 p.m.

City Councilman Corey O'Connor drew criticism from a Harrisburg trade group Tuesday over legislation he sponsored that, if passed, would require employers in Pittsburgh to give workers paid sick leave.

The legislation would require employers with more than 15 workers to offer nine paid sick days. Those with 15 or fewer employees would have to offer five.

Employers who ignore the law would face a $100 fine for each violation.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses, a Harrisburg nonprofit that represents 15,000 small businesses in Pennsylvania, called O'Connor's bill “onerous.”

“There's a cost associated with that,” said Neal Lesher, the group's legislative director. “If somebody calls off sick, you've got to call somebody else in, so you're paying twice. Some businesses can't simply afford to offer that benefit.”

Lesher said the state House is considering similar legislation.

“We would oppose that, too,” Lesher said. “These types of issues are better left to the employer and employee to work out what is right.”

O'Connor, who has Mayor Bill Peduto's support, said workers who are sick on the job perform poorly and spread ailments to co-workers and the public.

“We believe it's a public health issue,” said the Swisshelm Park Democrat.

O'Connor said he would seek to delay a vote on the bill until a public meeting is held. He said he would meet with opponents and make amendments if necessary.

O'Connor cited a survey by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington nonprofit that focuses on women's issues, that said about 49,000 people have private sector jobs in Pittsburgh that don't offer paid sick leave. Under the legislation, employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked after an initial 90 days.

Proponents of the legislation including union representatives, environmentalists and members of faith-based organizations rallied outside council chambers in support of the legislation.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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