Labor and Employment Law Overview: Pennsylvania

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Pennsylvania law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected categories. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Pennsylvania law prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to take a lie detector test and has specific provisions governing the use of a job applicant's arrest and conviction records. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Pennsylvania, there are many requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Pennsylvania has a number of laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, restrictions on wage deductions, and wage payment and notice requirements. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Pennsylvania law, employees are entitled to a number of leaves, including crime victim leave and time off for jury duty, and emergency and military service. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Pennsylvania law requires an employer to provide a safe working environment for its employees. See Health and Safety.

Introduction to Employment Law in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is generally considered an employee-friendly state.

Select Pennsylvania employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Pennsylvania Human Relations Act

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) applies to employers with four or more employees and contains an extensive list of protected categories against which an employer is prohibited from discriminating, including:

  • Race, color, ancestry and national origin;
  • Religion;
  • Pregnancy (including childbirth and related medical conditions);
  • Handicap or disability;
  • Age (40 years or older);
  • Gender;
  • Use of guide or support animals for certain disabilities; and
  • Educational status (diploma based on general educational development test).

Harassment on the basis of these factors is also a form of illegal discrimination and is prohibited under the PHRA.

The PHRA also prohibits retaliation against an employee who has opposed a discriminatory employment practice or who made a charge, testified or assisted in any investigation, proceeding or hearing held pursuant to the PHRA.

Equal Pay Law

Pennsylvania's Equal Pay Law prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of sex in the rate of pay for equal work on jobs that require equal skill effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions. An employer is also prohibited from discharging or discriminating against an employee for making a complaint or testifying in proceedings related to the Equal Pay Law.

Military Status Discrimination

Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination against an individual because of his or her membership in the Pennsylvania National Guard, federal military reserves, or because the individual is called to active military duty.

Medical Marijuana Act

Under Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act, an employer may not discriminate against an applicant or employee based solely on his or her status as a qualifying medical marijuana user. However, an employer may discipline an employee for being under the influence of medical marijuana in the workplace.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on discrimination, harassment and retaliation in Pennsylvania can be found in the Pennsylvania Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Pennsylvania, EEO - Discrimination: Pennsylvania, EEO - Harassment: Pennsylvania, EEO - Retaliation: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Arrest and Conviction Records

Pennsylvania law prohibits an employer from considering an applicant's arrest records, juvenile adjudications, expunged records and summary offense convictions. An employer may, however, consider an applicant's felony or misdemeanor convictions if they are related to the applicant's suitability for employment in the applied-for position.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Pennsylvania law does not regulate or prohibit drug testing in the private sector. However, an employer that chooses to implement a testing program should be sensitive to the privacy issues involved.

Polygraph and Lie Detector Tests

Pennsylvania law prohibits an employer from requiring an applicant or employee to take a polygraph or lie detector test as a condition for employment or continuation of employment. This prohibition does not apply to individuals in the field of public enforcement or who dispense or have access to narcotics or dangerous drugs.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Pennsylvania can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Pennsylvania, Negligent Hiring: Pennsylvania, and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal and Negligent Hiring: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Pennsylvania's minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. The Pennsylvania minimum wage increases automatically with increases in the federal minimum wage.

Overtime

Pennsylvania law generally requires an employer to pay covered employees overtime at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime must be compensated on a workweek basis regardless of whether the employee is compensated on an hourly wage, monthly salary, piece rate, or other basis. Certain employees, such as taxicab drivers, salesmen, and motor carriers, are exempt from Pennsylvania's overtime provisions, but not its minimum wage protections.

Meal Breaks

Pennsylvania law does not regulate meal breaks except for minors, who must be provided with an unpaid meal period of at least 30 consecutive minutes if they work more than five consecutive hours.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Pennsylvania restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, including as a pilot, as a fireman, in certain railway positions, and in the manufacture of paints, dyes and chemicals. Minors are also limited in their ability to work in establishments that produce, sell or dispense alcoholic beverages. Minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in a variety of additional occupations, such as working on scaffolding or in a tunnel, or engaging in youth peddling or promotion activities.

Pennsylvania also has a complex set of requirements that govern the times during which minors may work. These requirements differ depending on the age of the minor and the employer's industry, with separate working time restrictions set out for 16- and 17-year-olds and for 14- and 15-year-olds.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years of age may work:

  • Up to eight hours a day when school is in session, including summer school;
  • Up to 10 hour a day during school vacation periods;
  • Up to 28 hours during a regular school week, including summer school;
  • Up to 48 hours in a week during a school vacation period;
  • During the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight when school is in session, including summer school; and
  • From 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. during school vacation periods.

Minors who are 14 or 15 years of age may work:

  • Up to three hours on a school day;
  • Up to eight hours on a non-school day;
  • Up to 18 hours during a regular school week, including summer school;
  • Up to 40 hours in a week during a school vacation period;
  • During the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. when school is in session, including summer school; and
  • From 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during school vacation periods.

Pennsylvania requires working minors to have a work permit.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Pennsylvania can be found in the Pennsylvania Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Pennsylvania, Overtime: Pennsylvania, Hours Worked: Pennsylvania, Employee Classification: Pennsylvania, Child Labor: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal, Employee Classification: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation - Mini-COBRA

Under Pennsylvania's continuation coverage (also known as mini-COBRA) law, an employer with two to 19 employees must offer continuation of heath care coverage for up to nine months to an eligible employee and his or her covered dependents who lose coverage as a result of certain qualifying events, including:

  • Reduction of hours;
  • Termination of employment (except for gross misconduct); and
  • Death of a covered employee.

Same-Sex Partner Benefits

Under Pennsylvania law, an employer that provides heath insurance coverage for spouses through a fully insured plan will generally be required to provide such coverage equally for opposite-sex and same-sex spouses.

Payment of Wages

Pennsylvania law requires an employer to pay employees at least twice a month, on or before the 15th and the last day of the month. Overtime wages may be paid in the next succeeding pay period.

Upon termination, Pennsylvania law provides that wages are due by the next regular payday, whether the termination is voluntary or involuntary.

Pay Statement Requirements

Pennsylvania employers are required to provide employees with a written record of certain pay-related information, including:

  • Hours worked;
  • Rates paid;
  • Gross earnings;
  • Itemized deductions; and
  • Net wages.

Wage Deductions

Under Pennsylvania law, an employer may not withhold or divert employee wages except in limited circumstances, including:

  • If an employer is required or empowered to do so by state or federal law (e.g., child support and creditor garnishment);
  • Contributions to employee welfare and pension plans;
  • Union dues, assessments, initiation fees, and other charges;
  • Purchase of US Government Savings Bonds;
  • Repayment of a company loan, provided the employee authorizes the deductions in writing; and
  • Deductions authorized in writing by an employee or under a collective bargaining agreement for company-operated thrift plans, stock options or stock purchase plans; credit union accounts; a savings fund society, savings and loan, or building and loan association; and Christmas, vacation, or other savings accounts.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefit practices in Pennsylvania can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Pennsylvania, Payment of Wages: Pennsylvania, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Pennsylvania and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal, and Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Under Pennsylvania law, if an employer provides leave for temporary disabilities, it also must provide leave for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions.

Paternity Leave

Pennsylvania law provides that if an employer has a policy or practice of allowing leave for purposes of childrearing after the period of the mother's actual disability, the leave must be equally available to male employees.

Jury Duty

All employers in Pennsylvania must provide jury duty leave to employees, except any retail or service industry employer with fewer than 15 employees or any manufacturing industry employer with fewer than 40 employees. An employer is not required to compensate an employee who is nonexempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for leave to attend jury service or any other court appearance. An employee who is exempt from the FLSA must be paid for the whole week for any workweek in which he or she served as a juror or witness and also performed any actual work.

Military Leave

Pennsylvania law provides that an employer must provide an unpaid leave of absence to an employee ordered to perform military duties in Pennsylvania's National Guard or any reserve component of the US armed forces. Pennsylvania law also requires an employer to continue health insurance and other benefits for the first 30 days of military leave, with no cost to the employee. In addition, an employer is prohibited from terminating an employee or otherwise discriminating against that employee with respect to his or her compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of military leave.

Other Leave Laws Affecting Pennsylvania Employers

Most Pennsylvania employers are also required to comply with other leave laws, including:

  • Volunteer activities leave (e.g. volunteer fireman and ambulance service members); and
  • Crime victim leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Pennsylvania can be found in the Pennsylvania Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Pennsylvania, Jury Duty: Pennsylvania, Other Leaves: Pennsylvania, USERRA: Pennsylvania and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting health and safety are:

Pennsylvania Worker and Community Right to Know Act

Pennsylvania has a comprehensive approach to hazardous materials, including the Pennsylvania Worker and Community Right to Know Act, which requires private sector employers that fall under the federal jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to convey information about chemical hazards to workers, as well as to provide this data to public and emergency response agencies.

Clean Indoor Air Act

Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act generally prohibits smoking in the workplace. An employer is not required to make an accommodation for an employee who smokes, but has discretion to create a designated outdoor smoking area.

Additional information on health and safety requirements in Pennsylvania can be found in the Pennsylvania Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Pennsylvania, HR and Workplace Safety: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal and HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.