Back Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Laws

Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Laws

If you are working in Pennsylvania or plan to work in the state in the future, it is important to understand Pennsylvania labor and employment laws. Knowing the law will help you ensure your employer is treating you properly, compensating you correctly and keeping your workplace safe. 

Common Pennsylvania Employment Law Issues

Pennsylvania employee laws give employees protection just the same as Pennsylvania employment law protects both employees and employers. Common Pennsylvania employment law issues have to do with wages, overtime pay, federal law overlapping with state law, workers’ compensation and the line between full time, part time and seasonal workers. 

What Are the Rights of Employees in Pennsylvania?

According to labor laws in Pennsylvania, employees are entitled to many rights, particularly having to do with fair wages, no harassment in the workplace and safety.  

Breaks and Meals

Pennsylvania labor laws require employees be given adequate breaks for underage workers and meal times for all workers.

  • Any child between the ages of 14 and 17 who works at least five consecutive hours or more has to be given a break of 30 minutes. 
  • Breaks do not have to be given to any employee over the age of 18. However, if an employer provides breaks, and they are less than 20 minutes long, the employer does not have to pay for that amount of time. If the breaks are less than 20 minutes, your employer must pay you for the break time. 
  • For meal time, if you do not work during your meal, your employer does not have to pay for that time. 

Workplace Safety and Pennsylvania Labor Laws

Employees in Pennsylvania have the right to a healthy and safe workplace. This varies based on industry but requires, in general, a workplace free from health hazards like machinery sounds that will damage hearing or toxic chemicals without proper protection, and no safety issues like slippery floors. OSHA rules and federal laws allow you to:

  • Talk about any health or safety issues with other coworkers without repercussions
  • Participate in a union
  • Report hazards to OSHA
  • Testify against your company about hazards in the workplace without repercussions

PA Labor Laws and Discrimination

Discrimination in the state of Pennsylvania refers to any situation where your employer treats you differently because of your age, your sex, your disability, your race, or any other protected characteristic. This type of discrimination can include hiring and firing, refusal to promote because of age, or sexual harassment like unwelcome sexual conduct or advances in the workplace. If you are being discriminated against you can file a claim against your employer. 

Pennsylvania Minimum Wage

Basic minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 per hour for up to 40 hours, after which overtime is required by law. Your employer can change your rate of pay at any time as long as it is not below the minimum wage, and as long as you are given prior notice before the change is put into effect.

For example: If your regular payday is on the fifteenth of each month, your employer would need to give you written notice that your pay scale will change before that date. Any work you do after the fifteenth would be compensated at the new rate. 

During a given pay period, your employer can deduct money from your paycheck for tax deductions, written authorizations or wage garnishments. On your pay stub your employer must include:

  • How many hours you worked
  • How much you earned
  • What deductions were taken
  • How much money you were paid
  • Beginning and end dates for the given pay period

What Is the Regular Rate of Pay?

In Pennsylvania, the regular rate of pay refers to how much an employee is regularly paid for each hour of work. This rate cannot be less than the state minimum wage. If you are paid for piece work or on salary, anything that is not hourly, then the regular rate is determined by the total number of worked hours divided by the earnings. 

For example: If you work per piece for a company, working 40 hours and taking home $500 per week, then your regular rate is considered $500/40 hours which is $12.50.

Note: If you quit, or you are laid off or fired, your employer must provide all monies owed to you by the next scheduled pay day. 

Overtime Requirements 

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect January 1, 2020. The federal government now requires Pennsylvania to follow federal law for overtime pay.

During a given work week, any hours over 40 qualify for overtime pay. Overtime is 1.5 times your standard rate of pay. Employers must provide overtime compensation, and cannot offer other things like compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay. 

Company size does not affect overtime requirements. All companies have to compensate for overtime with the exception of executive or administrative employees whose contracts have exemptions for overtime. 

Workers’ Compensation

The state of Pennsylvania has a law for workers’ compensation to provide compensation for employees who become disabled or die because of injuries they sustained in the workplace. Federal law dictates that employers are responsible for keeping a workplace safe and healthy, so if they fail to do so, and you are injured as a result, you are entitled to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can an employer fire me without cause?

Pennsylvania is considered an “at will” state, which means PA labor laws do not require employers to give a reason for termination. If, however, you believe you were terminated because you participated in union activities, or reported OSHA violations or because of discrimination, you should consider speaking with an employment attorney. An attorney can help you file wrongful termination lawsuits in civil court if you were discriminated against or wrongfully fired. You can also reach out to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at 1-717-787-4410.

2. What if my employer didn’t pay me enough, or didn’t pay me correctly? 

If you were not paid state minimum wage or you were not given overtime pay, you have two years to file a claim with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. You should file your claim as soon as possible. If you do not have enough evidence or your claim is invalid, they might refuse to pay you. However, if your claim is approved, the Department of Labor and Industry will collect the missing money from your employer and send it to you. 

Alternatively, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Labor Law Compliance, or contact a labor attorney to get help filing a lawsuit in court against your employer to get back the lost wages.

3. Can my employer force me to work overtime?

Yes. In the state of Pennsylvania employers have control over what time of day or night employees work and how many hours they work. Employees can be forced to work overtime but for overtime compensation rates. Your employer can choose to fire you or discipline you if you do not work overtime. 

4. Do I get holiday pay? Sick leave? Severance or vacation pay?

Employers are not required to give holiday pay, nor are they required to pay you overtime if you work a holiday. Pennsylvania does not require employers to pay for sick leave, severance or vacation pay. If the employer writes that into their company policy or your contract, then they must honor it. 

5. Are Pennsylvania labor laws different if I don’t work full time?

Minimum wage laws do not differentiate between full time, part time, seasonal or temporary workers. Workers who are not full time may not be entitled to the same benefits as full-time employees, but that is based on the employer. Otherwise, all state labor laws for things like unemployment benefits, overtime pay and consecutive hours requirements are the same.

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