Employment Law in Pennsylvania
If you have suffered treatment from an employer in Pennsylvania that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.
Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in Pennsylvania
Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.
Wage and Hour Laws
Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.
Pennsylvania, like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.
The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.
Under the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, most Pennsylvania employees are required to make at least $7.25 per hour. However, there are exceptions for some occupations, including tipped employees, farm laborers, and domestic servants. In addition, most employers are required to pay overtime for any hours over 40 per week. The Governor of Pennsylvania is currently leading an effort to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour, but no changes have been enacted yet.
If you’ve been injured on the job in Pennsylvania, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:
- You must be an employee.
- You must have a work-related illness or injury.
- Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
- You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.
There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact an experienced Pennsylvania attorney for assistance with your case.
Termination Rights under Pennsylvania Employment Law
If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” meaning you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.
Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:
- Written promises or contracts
- Implied promises
- Violations of public policy
- Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
- Workplace retaliation
- Whistleblowing violations
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state. In addition, Pennsylvania is not a Right to Work state, so Pennsylvania employers can require employees to pay union dues. However, requiring union membership is prohibited by federal law.
If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact a qualified Pennsylvania employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.
If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. Then, after approval, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:
- If you were fired for misconduct.
- You voluntarily quit your job.
- You do not have enough earnings during the work period.
If your claim is denied, then you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Working with an experienced Pennsylvania attorney during the appeal process can improve your chances of winning the case.
Paid and Unpaid Time Off
Additionally, some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.
Some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.
Pennsylvania does not have any laws requiring payment for employees not working. This includes breaks, sick time, vacation, or any other PTO. However, if your employer has a policy or collective bargaining agreement that includes these benefits, they must be honored. In addition, federal law requires unpaid time off for eligible employees with certain medical or family issues.
Child Labor Laws
Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.
Under Pennsylvania’s child labor laws, the minimum age for employment is 14. However, there are some exceptions for farm workers, golf caddies, newspaper delivery, and entertainment workers. Minors cannot work in hazardous occupations, such as explosives, firefighting, and meat processing. In addition, workers under 16 cannot work later than 7pm while school is in session or after 9pm during school vacations.
Pennsylvania Employment Anti Discrimination Laws
A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
- Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
- Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
- Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.
If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is facing sexual harassment in the workplace, report it to your HR department.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits discrimination and harassment in the workplace. You have several avenues of complaint if you are being sexually harassed at work in Pennsylvania. The first choice is often your company’s HR department. However, you can also file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
Work With an Experienced Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer
If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in Pennsylvania, then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Pennsylvania state lines.