by Katie Westenberger, on Feb 17, 2023 8:15:00 AM
Pennsylvania employers and other professionals with operational insight, such as human resource professionals, need to understand the legislative requirements of operating a business in the state of Pennsylvania and the employee rights and protections that come along with that. Proper compliance with Pennsylvania labor laws involves federal, state, and local labor laws which while some are similar, may vary in different ways.
In this article, we’ll cover Pennsylvania labor and employment laws, what employers need to do to help ensure compliance, and where state, local, and/or federal laws overlap. Contact a Pennsylvania payroll and HR company like Paytime for more help with Pennsylvania labor laws.
Pennsylvania Hiring Laws
New Hire Reporting
When a Pennsylvania employer hires a new employee or rehires an employee, specific information must be reported to the state where the employee will be working, within 20 calendar days of the hiring date.
New hire reporting required employee information includes:
- Full legal name
- Street address, city, state of Hire, ZIP code
- Social Security Number (SSN)
- Date of hire
- State of hire
New hire reporting required employer information includes:
- Company name
- Street address, city, state of Hire, ZIP code
- Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
- Contact person name and phone number
Employers can report electronically through file upload, data entry, or by Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). First-time Pennsylvania employers must register with the state first to proceed, multi-state first-time employers must register with the national Multistate Employer Registry. Multi-state employers can either report newly-hired employees to the state where they are working or designate a single state to report all the new hires.
Employers must report all employees who reside or work in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, no matter how long they’ve worked, even if the employment ended before the new hire reporting process started, assuming that the employee has earned wages in that time. Employees who have not earned wages do NOT need to be reported as new hires.
“Ban the Box” Law
According to Pennsylvania's “Ban the Box” law, Pennsylvania employers are allowed to request a criminal history record of a candidate in the pre-hire process when it’s related to the candidate’s suitability for the job. Employers can obtain information about arrests and convictions that occurred within the last 3 years and about certain older or pending arrests as well as convictions.
Philadelphia Ban the Box Law
Employers should be mindful of any city or county-specific “Ban the Box” restrictions and regulations like those in Philadelphia. Employers located in Philadelphia are generally prohibited from asking job applicants or current employees about arrests or criminal accusations that did not result in a conviction.
In addition, when necessary and appropriate, criminal record checks are allowed to be conducted after the employer determines that the applicant is otherwise qualified for the job to which they applied and makes a conditional offer of employment. Employers may refer to The Fair Criminal Records Screening Standards Ordinance for more information.
Immigration & Employment Eligibility
Federal law requires employers to only hire individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States. Generally, private employers in Pennsylvania are not mandated to enroll and participate in the federal work authorization program, commonly known as E-Verify, to verify the employment eligibility of potential new hires. However, E-Verify is mandatory for employers with public workers contractors and subcontractors or employers who need to hire F-1 students who seek a STEM OPT extension, and employers in the construction industry.
Pennsylvania Discrimination Law
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)
The PHRA applies to employers with 4 or more employees throughout Pennsylvania. It prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual when it comes to hiring, firing, compensation, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Protected categories are considered any of the following:
- Race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, non-job related handicap or disability, the use of a guide or support animal because of blindness, deafness, or physical handicap
Pre-Hire Drug Testing
There’s no comprehensive state law in Pennsylvania regulating the use of drug or alcohol testing by private employers. However, employers in Pennsylvania should be mindful of the state's Medical Marijuana Act that prohibits employers from discharging, threatening, refusing to hire or discriminating against an employee who’s licensed to use medical marijuana.
Employers can, however, require an employee to make accommodations of the use of medical marijuana and take disciplinary action against employees for behavior that doesn't adhere to standard, documented company or workplace conduct requirements.
Pennsylvania Wage & Hour Laws
Pennsylvania Minimum Wage
State law allows employers to pay tipped employees a minimum wage of $2.83 per hour to an employee if the employee’s tips, when added to the cash wage, are at least equal to the state’s minimum wage rate. Previously, tipped employees in Pennsylvania were required to earn at least $30 per month in tips to qualify for this exemption. As of August 5, 2022, the monthly tip threshold for tipped employees was updated to $135.
For students, learners, or people with disabilities (see definitions here), employment at less than the minimum wage is possible for Pennsylvania employers who obtain a Special Certificate from the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance in order to authorize such employment. The wage cannot be less than 85% of the PA minimum wage and must be paid following the requirements below:
- Learners: 40 hours a week. Maximum eight weeks
- Students: Up to 20 hours a week. Up to 40 hours a week during school vacation periods
- People with disabilities: The special minimum wage is determined based on the productivity of the individual that is in proportion to the wages paid to employees without disabilities performing essentially the same work
Pennsylvania Pay Deductions
According to the state's Wage Payment and Collection Law, Pennsylvania employers may deduct pay from an employee’s wage in the following instances:
- The deduction is voluntarily authorized, in writing, by the employee for payments into
- Employee welfare and pension plans, including group insurance plans, hospitalization insurance, life insurance, and group hospitalization and medical service programs
- Company-operated thrift plans
- Stock option or stock purchase plans
- Employee personal savings accounts
- Charitable purposes
- Local area development activities
- Repayment to the employer of bona fide loans
- Purchases or replacements by the employee from the employer of goods, services, etc.
- Purchases by the employee from third parties now owned, affiliated or controlled by the employer
- Deductions provided by law (For example, deductions for Social Security taxes, withholding of federal or local income or wage taxes or occupation privilege taxes and deductions based on court orders)
- Labor organization dues, assessments and initiation fees, and such other labor organization charges as are authorized by law
Keep in mind that deductions cannot reduce an employee's gross pay below the minimum wage.
It's also important to note that employers are prohibited from deducting pay from an employee’s wage by requiring the employee to sign a "blanket" authorization at the time of hire to cover any future deductions.
Every employer must furnish a pay statement to each employee with every payment of wages that lists deductions.
Pennsylvania Overtime Rules
Pennsylvania's overtime requirements are similar to the federal overtime standards. When federal and state law intersects, the law that offers greater protection (or greater benefit) to the employee must be observed and complied with.
Pennsylvania employers must pay employees 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for all time worked over 40 hours in a week. Overtime wages must be paid on the next paycheck following any overtime worked.
Pennsylvania Overtime Exemptions
Salaried employees who perform executive, administrative, or professional duties and make more than the salary threshold per year may be exempt from overtime pay. Each individual working for an employer should be classified with an FLSA status.
A more comprehensive list of overtime exemptions, is available through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
Wage Payment Timing
According to the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, employers need to pay all wages due to employees, other than fringe benefits and wage supplements, on regularly scheduled paydays designated in advance by the employer. As mentioned above, overtime wages are required to be paid on the paycheck that follows the pay period the overtime hours were worked in the first place.
The waiting time between the end of a pay period and payday must not exceed:
- The time specified in a written contract between employer and employee, or
- The standard time-lapse customary in the trade, or
- 15 days
At the time of hire, the employee must be notified:
- The time and place of payment
- The rate of pay
- The amount of any fringe benefits or wage supplements to be paid to the employee, a third party, or a fund for the benefit of the employee
Pennsylvania employers must pay terminated employees (both voluntarily and involuntarily) all earnings and / or wages owed no later than the next scheduled payday. If the employee requests it, the payment must be made by certified mail.
Meal & Rest Breaks
There is no law in Pennsylvania requiring employers to offer breaks or rest periods for employees 18 years of age or older. The FLSA does not require meal and rest breaks. However, employers who do allow breaks of less than 20 minutes must pay for the break. Employers are not required to pay for meal periods longer than 20 minutes as long as the employee does not work through the meal period.
Please note that Pennsylvania does have some rules regarding breaks for younger employees, which are explained in the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law section below.
Pennsylvania Child Labor Laws
Minors (an individual under 18 years of age) in Pennsylvania must obtain a work permit in order to be employed. Minors under 16 must provide the employer a written statement by the minor's parent or legal guardian acknowledging understanding of the duties and hours of employment and granting permission to work.
An issuing officer is someone who processes the work permit application and issues the work permit, usually the chief administrator of a school district, intermediate school district, public school academy, or nonpublic school. Employers must notify the issuing officer in writing of the employment of a minor within 5 days after the beginning or termination of employment of a minor. The notice should include detailed duties and hours of employment, the age of the minor, and the work permit number.
Note: Employers with workers under the age of 18 in a performance of artistic creative expression either live, on the radio, on television, in a movie, or through another broadcast medium that is transmitted to an audience, should familiarize themselves with the Application for Minors in Performances.
Hours Worked Restrictions
Pennsylvania has its own requirements on hours of employment for minors. Minors age 14 and 15 may not work in the following instances:
- Before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. (during a vacation period, a minor is permitted to be employed until 9 p.m.)
- For more than 3 hours on a school day or more than 8 hours on a non-school day
- For more than 18 hours during a school week
- For more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session
Note: Students that are 14 years of age or older whose employment is part of a recognized school-work program supervised by a recognized school authority may be employed for hours which, combined with the hours spent in school, do not exceed 8 hours in a day. Additionally, different rules apply to minors employed in certain farm labor and newspaper delivery positions.
For minors that are 16 or 17 years old, rules differ based on whether school is in session. When school is in session, these minors may not work:
- More than 28 hours per week during a regular school week
- More than 8 hours in a single day
- Before 6 a.m. or after 12 midnight (except during a school vacation period a minor may be employed until 1 a.m.)
When school is not in session, minors that are 16 or 17 years old may not work:
- More than 10 hours in a single day
- More than 48 hours in a single week
- Any hours worked more than 44 in a single week must be voluntarily agreed to by the minor
- The minor may reject any request for employment in excess of 44 hours in a single week without retaliation
Note: Minors who have graduated from high school or who are exempt from compulsory attendance under the Public School Code (§ 1330(1)) are not subject to these restrictions. Additionally, minors in performances may be subject to different rules.
Unlike employees over 18, breaks are required for minors. All employees less than 18 years old may not work more than 5 hours without a documented 30-minute uninterrupted break.
Minors in Pennsylvania have restrictions on the duties they can perform. Employers can find the list of prohibited occupations from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Pennsylvania employers who hire minors must maintain accurate records of the days and hours (including specific hours) worked by the employee.
Employers must also maintain:
- A list of all the minors employed
- A schedule of the hours of labor
- For each minor, the employer must keep a copy of
- The work permit
- The original verified permission statement (for minors under 16)
- A copy of the letter sent to the issuing officer announcing the employment of the minor
Pennsylvania Leave Laws
There’s no statewide law in Pennsylvania requiring paid sick leave or vacation. However, employers must be aware of and comply with any city or local laws that may require unpaid or even paid leave if the business is located in one of these areas.
It should also be noted that Pennsylvania employers with 50 or more employees may be required to provide an employee with protected, unpaid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Philadelphia Sick Leave
Employers with 10 or more employees must provide paid sick leave, while employers with 9 or fewer employees must provide unpaid sick leave.
Employees who work at least 40 hours a year are entitled to sick leave in Philadelphia.
Sick Leave Accrual in Philadelphia
Employees can earn 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked and will be able to accumulate a maximum of 40 sick time hours in a given calendar year.
Sick Leave Usage in Philadelphia
Employees can take sick leave for reasons such as the employee's own health needs, to care for a family member, or for leave due to domestic abuse or sexual assault.
Employees can start taking sick leave after working for at least 90 days for an employer.
Sick Leave Compensation in Philadelphia
Sick leave compensation must be equal to the employee’s regular rate of pay.
More detailed information is listed in the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces ordinance.
Sick Leave Notice & Recordkeeping in Philadelphia
Employers are required to give notice that employees are entitled to sick time, the amount of sick time, and the terms of sick time usage.
Employers are also required to keep records of documented hours worked by employees, sick time taken by employees, and payments made to employees for sick time for a period of two years.
Allegheny County Sick Leave
Allegheny County also enacted its own paid sick leave law on September 15, 2021. It requires employers with 26 or more employees to give workers written notice about paid sick time entitlements. This law does not apply to seasonal workers and independent contractors.
Note: For municipalities in Allegheny County with a paid sick leave policy that’s stricter than the county law, this law does not apply.
Sick Leave Accrual in Allegheny County
Employees can accrue at least one hour of paid sick time for every 35 hours they worked in Allegheny County unless the employer provides a faster accrual rate. Employees can accumulate a maximum of 40 hours every calendar year unless the employer chooses to designate a higher amount.
Sick Leave Usage in Allegheny County
Employees can start taking sick leave after working for an employer for 90 days. Employees may utilize sick time for the following reasons:
- The employee's or a family member's health and medical care
- The closure of the employee's place of business, or child's school or place of care due to a public health emergency
- The employees need to care for a family member who has been exposed to a communicable disease and whose presence in the community has been determined to jeopardize the community
Sick Leave Compensation in Allegheny County
Employees' sick leave time must be compensated at the same base rate of the employee's regular pay and with the same benefits, including health care benefits.
Sick Leave Notice & Recordkeeping in Allegheny County
Employers should notify employees about the paid sick time accrued and also retain records documenting hours worked by employees and paid sick time taken by employees for a period of two years.
Pittsburgh Sick Leave
The city of Pittsburgh is located in Allegheny County, but has its own Pittsburgh sick leave law. This law covers all employees who perform work in the city of Pittsburgh for at least 35 hours per calendar year, whether the employer is located in Pittsburgh or not. Only work hours performed within the city will be included in the computation of accrued sick time.
This law also does not apply to independent contractors, state and federal employees, seasonal employees, and members of a construction union covered by a collective bargaining unit.
Sick Leave Accrual in Pittsburgh
Employees start accruing sick leave at the start of employment. Accrual rates and amounts depend on the employer size:
- Employers with fewer than 15 employees: Employees accrue at least one hour of sick time for every 35 worked, with a cap of 24 hours per year
- Employers with 15 or more employees: Employees accrue at least one hour of sick time for every 35 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours per year
The cap can be set higher by employers. Accrued sick time can also be carried over from year to year.
Alternatively, employers may frontload sick time at the beginning of each calendar year. Employees may not carry over unused hours from year to year if they work for an employer with 15 or more employees and are frontloaded at least 40 hours, or for a smaller employer and are frontloaded at least 24 hours.
Sick Leave Usage in Pittsburgh
Employees can start taking sick leave after working for 90 days for the following reasons:
- An employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
- The diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition of the employee or employee’s family member
- The need for a medical diagnosis or preventive care for an employee or the employee's family member
- Closure of the employee's place of business or a child’s school due to a public health emergency
- Care for a family member who would jeopardize the health of others because of exposure to a communicable disease
Sick Leave Compensation in Pittsburgh
According to the City of Pittsburgh Paid Sick Days Act, all sick leave time must be compensated at employees’ regular rate of pay with the same benefits. When employment ends, employers are not required to pay out accrued sick time.
Sick Leave Notice & Recordkeeping in Pittsburgh
Employees should attempt to give notice prior to the start of any scheduled work time. Under certain circumstances, reasonable documentation can be requested by employers when employees are taking three or more consecutive days of sick leave.
Employers must post this notice in the office where it’s accessible to all employees. Employers must also keep records of hours worked and sick time taken by employees for two years.
Philadelphia Victim Leave
The city of Philadelphia has enacted the Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave Law to require employers to provide leave to an employee who is a victim or has a family member who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Reason for Victim Leave
Philadelphia employees can take victim leave for the following reasons:
- Seek medical attention for physical or psychological injuries
- Obtain services from a victims services organization
- Obtain counseling or therapy
- Participate in safety planning to protect themselves or the related victim, including possibly relocating to a safer location
- Seek legal assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking
Amount of Victim Leave
The amount of victim leave required to be provided by employers depends on the employer size and the amount of other leave taken by the employee:
- For employers who have 50 or more employees
- Up to 8 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period
- For employers who have less than 50 employees
- Up to 4 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period
- This leave, when added to any leave that has been taken under the federal FMLA, cannot be more than the 12 weeks in 12 months provided under the federal FMLA
Victim Leave Advance Notice
- The employee must provide the employer with 48 hours’ notice before they may take leave. An employer may request documentation
Pennsylvania law does not require employers to provide paid holiday leave. Employers may choose to offer paid holiday leave; when they do so, employees are not entitled to overtime pay unless hours worked in the workweek exceed 40.
Jury Duty Leave
Pennsylvania employers are required to provide unpaid leave time for employees to perform jury duty. Pennsylvania law does not require private employers to pay employees for absences caused by jury duty or court appearances. An employer may not discharge, penalize (through loss of seniority or benefits), threaten, or take any adverse action against an employee called to serve as a juror.
The law does not apply to retail or service industry employers with fewer than 15 employees or to any employer in the manufacturing industry with less than 40 employees.
Employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against any employees who are members of the National Guard or the U.S. reserves, or because the employee is called to active military duty.
Employers are required to continue health insurance and other benefits of such an employee for at least the first 30 days of military duty at no cost to the employee. After the first 30 days, the employer must provide the employee the option to continue such benefits at the employee’s own expense.
Employees are entitled to be restored to the previous position held or a similar position once completing military duty.
Organ Donor Leave
Pennsylvania Health & Safety Laws
Personal Information Protection
Under the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information Notification Act, employers must exercise reasonable care to safeguard employees’ sensitive personal data stored on an internet-accessible computer system.
Employers who maintain, store, or manage employees’ personal information must provide notice to employees whose personal information data was or may have been disclosed due to a breach of the security of the system without unreasonable delay. When an employer provides notifications to more than 1,000 persons at one time, they must also notify, without unreasonable delay, all consumer reporting agencies that compile and maintain files on consumers on a nationwide basis of the timing, distribution, and number of notices.
Personal information includes:
- Employees’ first name or first initial and last name
- Driver's license number
- State identification card number
- Financial account number, credit or debit card number, in combination with any required security code, access code, or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account
Smoke & Tobacco Use
Employers in Pennsylvania are required to prohibit smoking in enclosed workplaces, commercial establishments, and other public places. The prohibition does not apply to certain areas and establishments, including:
- Designated hotel and motel rooms which account for no more than 25% of the total number of lodging units
- Tobacco shops and the workplaces of tobacco manufacturers, importers or wholesalers
- Certain private clubs
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation
Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job or have a work-related illness, including:
- Payment for medical treatment for a work-related injury or illness
- Cash payments that partially replace lost wages on a temporary or permanent basis
With the exception of certain industries, workers' compensation programs are designed and administered by state governments. For states requiring workers' compensation, state laws typically require employers to purchase insurance from an authorized carrier or to self-insure. Programs vary by state in terms of benefit levels, duration, and types of compensable injuries. More information about workers' compensation in Pennsylvania can be found here.
Pennsylvania Benefits Laws
Philadelphia Commuter Transit Benefits Program
The Philadelphia Commuter Transit Benefits Program took effect on December 31st, 2022, and now requires Philadelphia employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least one of the following employee commuter transit benefit programs for covered employees:
- Election of a pre-tax, payroll deduction for mass transit expenses
- An employer-paid benefit whereby the covered employer supplies a fare instrument for a covered employee’s mass transit expenses
- Any combination of the programs above
Pennsylvania Continuation of Coverage and COBRA Laws
Pennsylvania employers with fewer than 20 employees are generally required to offer employees, the employee's spouse, and the employee's dependent children COBRA coverage under the Pennsylvania mini-COBRA law.
Employees, the employee's spouse, and the employee's dependent children will be entitled to continuation of coverage for 9 months if:
- They lose group coverage due to termination of employment
- They lose coverage due to a reduction in hours of employment
- They lose eligibility for Medicare
- They lose coverage due to divorce, or death of a spouse or guardian
Employees must also have been enrolled in the plan for at least 3 months in order to qualify for continuation of coverage. More information about Pennsylvania COBRA can be found at the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
Keep in mind that employers with more than 20 employees are subject to federal COBRA legislation.
Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation
Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation (UC) program provides temporary income support to people who just lost jobs. Employees who become unemployed through no fault of their own may file an unemployment compensation claim and be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Pennsylvania Notices & Posters
The following posters are mandatory for Pennsylvania employers and must be displayed in an easily accessible location so that employees have access to information about applicable labor laws.
For all employers:
- Minimum Wage
- Equal Pay
- Right to Know Act
- Workers’ Compensation
- Unemployment Compensation
- Fair Employment
- Required for employers that have 4 or more employees, including units of state and local government; labor organizations; employment agencies
- Child Labor Law
- Required for employers that hire employees under the age of 18
- Hours of Work for Minors
- Required for employers that hire employees under the age of 18
- No Smoking
- Required for employers who are identified under the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act
For public employers only:
Posting compliance is enforced by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. More information on required postings can be found on the PA Department of Labor & Industry website.
An all-in-one federal and state labor law poster for Pennsylvania employers will generally cover virtually all non-industry-specific posting requirements.
Pennsylvania Recordkeeping Requirements
In addition to posting requirements, Pennsylvania also has certain recordkeeping requirements for employers. Generally, employers must keep records for:
- Wages, Hours, and Payroll
- Must be retained for 3 years for each employee
- Unemployment Insurance
- Must be retained for 4 years for each employee
- Safety & Health / Workers’ Compensation
- Child Labor
- Employers with 4 or more employees must retain records of employment and dismissal of workers for 120 days following termination of employment or until the final disposition of a complaint
- Sponsors of apprenticeships and certain other programs must maintain records of 5 years
Employees are generally entitled to inspect their personnel records. However, former employees may not have the right to access their own personnel files, except for those employees who were laid off and have re-employment rights or those on a leave of absence.
Get Help with Pennsylvania Labor Law Compliance
It’s a challenge for many businesses to ensure compliance in the state. While guides like this one or public information are accessible to employers, there is still more to be done.
The most common and efficient way to ensure compliance is to simply seek help from a provider of Pennsylvania payroll and HR services. To learn more about how a payroll and HR company can help you better manage your business, contact one today.
For help finding an HR and payroll provider in your area, contact us.
Guest Author: Katie Westenberger
Katie Westenberger is the Manager of Training & HR Implementations at Paytime, a Pennsylvania payroll & HR service provider headquartered in Mechanicsburg. Katie began her employment with Paytime in April 2016 and has had the unique opportunity to learn and support almost every aspect of the TeamSuiteHR™ software in multiple roles within the organization. Bringing all these experiences and achievements together, she now oversees the training efforts for Paytime and leads the HR Implementation team. Katie holds a BSBA in Human Resource Management from Shippensburg University. She is a member of the American Payroll Association (APA) and the local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and has maintained her Professional Human Resources (PHR) designation since June 2013.