Pennsylvania’s employment laws cover a wide array of legal issues; from hiring and firing, to questions employers can legally ask and when someone must be paid. These laws are designed and intended to protect employees from arbitrary decisions and whims of employers, but also ensure business owners and managers may make well-reasoned business decisions.

In addition to following federal employment law, Pennsylvania has its own set of rules and regulations. Below is an overview of general areas where federal and state laws intersect.

"At Will" Employment

Every state, with the exception of Montana, follows "at will" rules. Meaning, quite simply, an employer can fire an employee for any reason and at any time. There are, however, two major exceptions to this rule:

1) Contract – Employees under contract cannot be fired from a position unless they violate the terms of their employment or if other "cause" exists.

2) Discrimination – Employers cannot make employment decisions based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability
  • Age, if between 40 to 70
  • Having a GED and not a high school diploma
  • Use of service animal
  • Relationship or association with disabled person

Although "at will" employment seems unevenly heavy handed in favor of the employer, because in many respects, it does, it is important to keep in mind that employees also enjoy immense freedom under an at will system. For example, an employee can leave a job whenever they feel like it without fear of legal repercussions.

Wage and Hour

Wage and hour law describes the minimum amount of money an employee must be paid for their time, and when they are entitled to overtime.

  • Minimum Wage – Pennsylvania’s minimum wage laws mirror federal minimum wage at $7.25. However, some employees may be subject to "subminimum wage" laws. Additionally, workers who earn tips may earn as little as $2.83 an hour.
  • Overtime – Similar to their laws on minimum wage, Pennsylvania’s overtime laws mimic the federal standards as set forth in the Fair Labor Standard Act. Thus, all hourly employees are entitled to 1 ½ times their wage for every hour worked over 40 hours.

Hostile Work Environment

It goes without saying that everyone is entitled to work in an environment where they feel safe. Thus, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination are strictly outlawed under federal law. In addition to these federal laws, in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s sexual harassment laws under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protect victims of sexual harassment.

Should I Seek Legal Advice?

If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated, or if you are an employer who has questions regarding the laws of Pennsylvania, you should speak to a Pennsylvania attorney immediately.