The Pennsylvania employment
The Pennsylvania labor laws every business owner should know
Wages and breaks
The current minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.83.
If an employer pays its tipped employees the lower minimum wage, it must also ensure that the tips received make up the difference between the lower minimum wage and the standard one.
If an employee does not report their tips, they cannot claim that they were paid less than the standard minimum wage.
Overtime pay must be paid to non-exempt employees in Pennsylvania at a rate of 1 ½ times the normal rate, unless the employee is exempt, for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.
The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.
Final paychecks in Pennsylvania
State law requires employers to pay an employee who has separated from the business for any reason their final paycheck no later than the next payday.
If an employee requests their final paycheck be mailed, the employer must comply.
Pennsylvania child labor laws
Minors under the age of 14
No minor under the age of 14 may work in any industry, except for children employed on farms or in domestic service in private homes.
Minors under the age of 16
Minors under the age of 16 require a written statement by their legal guardian granting permission to work. Minors 14 and 15 years of age may work a maximum of 3 hours on school days and 8 hours on other days, with a maximum of 18 hours per school week (Monday-Friday) and 8 additional hours on the weekend. During vacation periods, they may work a maximum of 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.
Minors 16 and 17 years of age
Minors 16 and 17 years of age may work a maximum of 8 hours a day and 28 hours per school week when school is in session, plus an additional 8 hours on the weekend. During vacation, they may work a maximum of 48 hours per week and 10 hours a day, but a minor can refuse to work more than 44 hours in a workweek.
Pennsylvania labor laws do not require an employer to provide paid or unpaid sick leave, but if an employer chooses to include a sick leave policy in the employee handbook, it must comply with the terms.
Employers in the City of Philadelphia must provide employees who work in Philadelphia for at least 40 hours per year with one accrued hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employers with ten or more than 10 employees must offer paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must offer the same leave benefits, though the leave may be unpaid.
An employer may be required to provide unpaid leave in accordance with the federal laws in the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Bereavement leave is not required by Pennsylvania law.
Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave, but if they choose to do so, they must comply with their established policy.
Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid holiday leave, if an employer chooses to include a holiday leave policy in the employee handbook, it must comply with the terms.
Employers are not required to provide paid leave for jury duty responsibilities, but employees may not be deprived of their seniority position or benefits, or otherwise penalized for responding to a jury summons.
This does not apply to retail or service industry employers with fewer than 15 employees or to manufacturing employers with less than 40 employees. Employees who work in these industries may request to be excused from jury service.
There are no Pennsylvania laws regarding paid or unpaid leave for voting reasons.
Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for attending court as the victim of a crime (or their family member) or as a witness to a crime. Employers are not required to pay for such leave.
The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is applicable to all employers in the United States.
Hiring and firing
Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.
Additionally, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes it illegal for employers with four or more employees to discriminate on the basis of: Non-conviction arrest or expunged criminal records; Family care leave status; Use of a guide or support animal; Relationships with someone with a disability; GED certificate.
Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee because they are a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces or engage in military duties.
Pennsylvania is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action.
Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:
For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves.
For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.
For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination.
Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you:
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.
You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.
If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years.
Additional laws that may apply to you.
Employers must pay their employees at least semimonthly unless they are paid an annual salary. Railroad workers must be paid weekly. Employers who intend to use a different pay interval must inform employees of the timing of paydays upon hire.
Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.
Pennsylvania requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees or applicants: School personnel, including private schools, intermediate units, and area vocational-technical schools, unless the applicant has no direct contact with children; Police officers, including at campuses or universities; Child care personnel, including volunteers; Personnel working for a domiciliary care home, a home health care agency, a long-term nursing facility, an older adult daily living center, or a personal care home; Personnel working for a private detective or investigator agency; Personnel working for a patrol agency; Common or contract carriers.
Pennsylvania does not expressly allow or prohibit employers from obtaining credit reports on applicants or employees.
Pennsylvania employers may only consider misdemeanor and felony convictions to the extent that they relate to the applicant’s suitability for the position. Employers should not inquire about or consider other records, such as arrests that did not lead to conviction or records that have been expunged.
Pennsylvania has no statutes limiting workplace drug and alcohol testing. However, employers are prohibited from requiring that applicants or employees pay the cost of their own medical examination or drug testing if they ultimately work for the employer for at least one week.
It is illegal to discriminate against a person because they are certified to use medical marijuana for a serious medical condition (as determined by their prescribing doctor). Employers do not need to tolerate use or intoxication at the workplace but should not use a positive test result for THC as automatic grounds for discipline or termination without first determining whether the employee is a certified medical user.
Employers that receive public funds may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for doing the following: Reporting in good faith a waste of public funds or a violation of a law, ordinance, or code of ethics; Participating in an investigation or proceeding at the request of a governmental body or agent.
COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” Pennsylvania’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to nine months. Employers must provide an employee with a notice of their COBRA rights within 30 days of the triggering event.
Employers may not listen to or record any oral, wire, or electronic communications of their employees unless all parties to the communication consent.
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This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros.