Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

U.S. Senator Blocks Coronavirus Bill as Some Companies Offer More Sick Leave


As some of the nation’s largest employers introduce new sick leave policies amid the coronavirus outbreak, a key Republican lawmaker in Washington has blocked an attempt to pass legislation that would require companies to provide paid sick leave.
On March 11, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee objected to Senator Patty Murray’s request for unanimous consent approval of legislation that would require employers to provide workers with 14 days of paid sick leave during public health emergencies, according to The Hill.

Murray, a Democrat from Washington State, requested unanimous consent approval to bypass a more time-consuming vote. Under Senate rules, any member can object to unanimous consent. Alexander is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Murray is the top-ranking minority party member of the committee.

“The idea of paid sick leave is a good idea. But if Washington, D.C., thinks it’s a good idea, Washington, D.C., should pay for it,” Alexander reportedly said from the Senate floor. “It’s not a cure for the coronavirus to put a big new expensive federal mandate on employers who are struggling in the middle of this matter.”

“Democrats are pushing for new paid sick leave measures as an effort to try to prevent the spread of the virus,” The Hill reported. “They worry that without paid sick leave, employees will try to come to work sick.”

Some companies aren’t waiting for a public mandate to take preventative measures. On March 10, Walmart announced the deployment of a new emergency leave program for employees while confirming that one of its associates in Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus.

Other companies including Apple, Uber, Lyft, and Darden Restaurants are introducing or enhancing paid leave for workers due to the pandemic, according to Politico.

As of 3:00 p.m. March 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Health had announced the identification of 22 coronavirus cases across the Commonwealth, including 20 presumptive positive cases and two confirmed cases. By county, those cases included 13 in Montgomery, two in Bucks, two in Monroe, and one each in Delaware, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike and Wayne. Real-time updates are available via the department’s website.

Pittsburgh’s New Paid Sick Leave Law Set to Take Effect on March 15

Pittsburgh’s long-awaited and extensively litigated paid sick leave law is scheduled to take effect on March 15, providing new benefits to an estimated 50,000 of the city’s private-sector workers for the first time.

Sick leaveThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the ordinance last July five years after the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association and other plaintiffs sued the city to block it.

“The law … mandates that employers in Pittsburgh (or who have employees working within city limits) grant sick time based on how many hours an employee works,” the Post-Gazette reported. “Exactly how much sick time and when that sick time is paid or not is determined by the number of employees.”

Businesses that employ 15 or more must provide each employee with one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid sick time. The law does not distinguish between full-time and part-time employees. Companies with less than 15 employees must credit sick time using the same formula, but employees may accumulate up to 24 hours of leave at a given time.

As the ordinance is phased in over the first year, small companies can choose to grant unpaid sick leave instead of paid sick leave. Also, there will be no fine for violators in the first year. As of March 15, 2021, the fine will be up to $100 per violation. The law will apply to Pittsburgh-based companies and outside companies whose employees work in the city.

Philadelphia’s version of a paid sick leave ordinance also fought off years of legal challenges before taking effect in early 2015. Yet, even then, enforcement was slow to happen. The Inquirer reported that from 2016 to 2018, 43 paid sick leave-related complaints were filed with the city and just nine were resolved. One-fourth of the worker complaints originated in the healthcare industry.

Sometimes the city was unable to get in touch with the worker who filed the complaint. Other times, the employer failed to respond to a request for more information. Some complaints were judged to be invalid.

Philadelphia’s law states that companies with more than nine employees must provide paid sick leave, while those with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Independent contractors, unionized workers, state and federal employees, and seasonal workers are not covered by the law. To be eligible, employees must work at least 40 hours per year. They may accumulate up to five sick days at a given time.

Professional Licensing, Networking Challenges Hinder Civilian Employment for Veterans

VeteransThe unemployment rate among U.S. military veterans is historically low at about 3%, which is even lower than the 3.5% rate for the nation’s entire workforce.
Yet, the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the entire story. Veterans are disproportionately “underemployed” because their duties and incomes don’t correspond to the extensive skills and experience they gained in the military.
“Veterans are 37% more likely to be underemployed than nonveterans, a recent study by LinkedIn found,” according to The New York Times.

In addition, the unemployment rate for military spouses is 24% “in large part because of frequent relocations and an inability to transfer occupational licenses from state to state,” the Times reported.

Several factors result in employment-related challenges for veterans and their spouses. The state licensing issue is among them. Although the government may invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to train each soldier, sailor, or Marine specific to their military duties, that training doesn’t come with civilian professional certification.
The healthcare field is one example. Combat medics may learn specialized skills such as emergency response techniques that may be valuable in civilian use. However, civilian credentialing can be time consuming and difficult to navigate.

Also, while the G.I. bill offers 36 months of tuition payments and housing allowances, many veterans cannot take advantage of the program by the time they leave the military because of other obligations. They have families and must work full-time to pay monthly bills.

Some veterans face professional setbacks because they aren’t interested in pursuing in civilian life the same type of work they were trained to do in the military. Others lack strong professional networks or find themselves being viewed as “charity cases” rather than reliable and knowledgeable professionals.

Philly Restaurant Workers Cite Abusive Management as Top Reason for High Turnover

In a survey of more than 100 Philadelphia hospitality industry workers, found that nearly four in 10 said they believe overbearing and abusive management has contributed to industry-wide job vacancies and high worker turnover.

Chef“Interviews with and surveys of restaurant workers conducted by Billy Penn over the past year suggest … that higher-ups in the industry routinely disregard the physical well-being of lower-level staff,” the news organization reported.

A presentation by a prominent international chef during the recent Philly Chef Conference at Drexel University attracted public attention to the issue, including a Washington Post article.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who was described as “one of the world’s most famous chefs” recently opened his first Philadelphia restaurant at the Four Seasons in the Comcast Technology Center. During the Drexel conference, he reportedly told an audience that he punched and kicked a dishwasher who allegedly took breaks at inopportune times and who was a member of a labor union.

The restauranteur knew he couldn’t fire the employee, so “the only way to get rid of him was to shake him up a little bit,” he reportedly said.

“When he shrugged off a journalist’s question about the seriousness of the incident, attendees were stunned,” the Post reported, according to Billy Penn.

In addition to issues with management, survey respondents also cited “burnout” and their inability to take vacations and holidays, low pay, poor work conditions, lack of benefits and sick days, sexual harassment by staff and patrons, open hostility by management, and lack of appreciation.

“Among all of that, however, management issues were most often shared as a big piece of the puzzle,” Billy Penn reported.