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. Employers must also allow employees to access their personnel files.See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Pennsylvania permits preemployment criminal checks. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Pennsylvania, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Pennsylvania has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay frequency, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Pennsylvania law, employees are entitled certain leaves or time off, including jury duty leave, crime victim leave, emergency responder leave and military leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Pennsylvania prohibits smoking in the workplace and texting while driving. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Pennsylvania employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including broader antidiscrimination protections, health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and emergency responder leave, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as the minimum wage and occupational safety and health.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) prohibits an employer with four or more employees from discriminating on the basis of protected characteristics such as:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Ancestry;
  • National origin;
  • Religion;
  • Disability (including use of a guide or support animal);
  • Age (40 years or older);
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions); 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 has made a charge, testified or assisted in any investigation, proceeding or hearing held under the PHRA.

Equal Pay

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. Different pay rates may be allowed under a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on a factor other than sex.

Access to Personnel Files

Upon an employee's request, an employer must allow the employee (or a designated agent) to inspect certain records in his or her personnel file at reasonable times. The Inspection of Employment Records Law authorizes employees to inspect personnel files used to determine the employee's qualifications for the following:

  • Employment;
  • Promotion;
  • Additional compensation;
  • Termination; or
  • Disciplinary action.

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 EEO, diversity and employee relations practices 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, HR Management: 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, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and HR Management: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

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.

An employer must notify an applicant in writing if it decides not to hire the applicant based on his or her criminal history record.

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 and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: 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.

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 under the age of 18 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.

No minor may work more than six consecutive days, except in newspaper delivery.

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 a.m. 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 nonschool 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 9:00 p.m. during school vacation periods.

Minors may not work more than five consecutive hours without getting at least a 30-minute rest break.

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, 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 and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Under Pennsylvania's health care continuation coverage law (also known as mini-COBRA), 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. Qualifying events that trigger continuation coverage under state law are the same as under federal law. Employees may be required to pay up to 105 percent of the monthly premium.

Payment of Wages

Wages must be paid in cash or by check. Direct deposit or electronic paycards may be used under certain circumstances.

Pay Frequency

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.

Pay Statements

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

  • Beginning and ending dates of the pay period;
  • Hours worked;
  • Rates paid;
  • Gross wages;
  • Allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage;
  • Deductions; and
  • Net wages.

Wage Deductions

A Pennsylvania employer may make deductions from an employee's wages if required by state or federal law or court order, with the employee's written authorization or for other permissible reasons, including but not limited to welfare or pension plan contributions, union dues, child support withholding, creditor garnishments and tax levies.

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 benefits 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.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Pennsylvania has a few laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees. These laws include:

  • Jury duty leave (covering all employers except retail or service industry employers with fewer than 15 employees and manufacturing industry employers with fewer than 40 employees);
  • Crime victim leave;
  • Emergency responder leave; and
  • Military 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 time off and leave of absence 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:

Smoke-Free Workplace

Pennsylvania's Clean Indoor Air Act generally prohibits smoking in the workplace. A "No Smoking" sign must be prominently posted and properly maintained at all entrances.

Safe Driving Practices

Pennsylvania prohibits the use of an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle.

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 health and safety practices 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.

Organizational Exit

Key Pennsylvania requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

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

Whether an employer must pay a terminating employee accrued vacation pay depends on company policy.

References

Pennsylvania employers enjoy qualified immunity when providing job references, unless the employer discloses information that:

  • It knew or should have known was false;
  • It knew was misleading;
  • Was false and was communicated recklessly; or
  • Was prohibited by any employee contract or right.

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 organizational exit practices in Pennsylvania can be found in Payment of Wages: Pennsylvania, Performance Appraisals: Pennsylvania and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Pennsylvania? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.