Pennsylvania ( PA ) Wage and Hour Laws

It is important for both employers and employees to understand all aspects of Pennsylvania (PA) wage and hour laws. Pennsylvania has primarily adopted the standards set as written in the Fair Labor Standards Act which was created by the Federal Government.

The current minimum wage of Pennsylvania is $5.15 per hour. No Pennsylvania (PA) wage and hour laws exist to address minimum wage. Instead, Pennsylvania follows the federal standard, which is subject to change. In fact, a three step increase is being debated by Congress.

If the federal government rules in favor of raising the national minimum wage to as high as $7.25 per hour standard it could affect the state of Pennsylvania. That state would be required to comply with the new federal minimum wage standard. The only exception to this would be if Pennsylvania was to raise their rate higher than the one of the federal government.

The only provision that Pennsylvania (PA) wage and hour laws make regarding breaks is for those given to minors. Pennsylvania employees are only required to give a 30 minute break after five hours worth of work to workers under 18.

Pennsylvania employees who are 18 and over are not required to be given a break. However, employers must pay for any breaks given that are shorter than 30 minutes (usually 5 to 20 minutes). If employers give breaks to adult workers that are 30 minutes or longer those breaks do not have to be paid for by the employer if the employee is free from all duties. Employees may be called back to work during the shorter breaks, however.

Premium pay (overtime) must be paid to employees who work more than 40 hours within a seven day work week. These overtime hours worked will be paid at a rate of one and a half times the regular pay for those extra hours worked. Certain employees such as administrative workers and agricultural hands are exempt from being paid overtime.

In addition, Pennsylvania (PA) wage and hour laws state very clearly that paid hours such as holiday time, sick leave, vacation days, or time off are not counted as actual work hours. Therefore, those hours do not count towards overtime pay.

Pennsylvania (PA) wage and hour laws are primarily adaptations of federal wage and hour laws. These laws were created to help improve working conditions within the United States, including in the state of Pennsylvania.

30 thoughts on “Pennsylvania ( PA ) Wage and Hour Laws

  1. Dear Sir, I was in a car accident and the ins company do not want to pay me by lose wages so could you please help me . Sincerely your, Peggy

  2. Hi Peggy! Sorry, but unless this accident occurred at work, it is really not an issue of employment law. You may want to contact an attorney. Unfortuantely, in Pennsylvania as in most states, most citizens are not covered by short term disability insurance. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  3. Message
    I was hired by a company almost 2 years ago starting out at about 30 hours a week and then went to 35 hours a week for about 7 months if not more. Recently I have been working 40 hours and my employer still will not offer me medical benefits. I receive all the other benefits a full time employee receives, 401K, bonus’, vacation, and paid holidays. Is there any law that states they need to offer medical. And what is considered full time in the state of Pennsylvania ? Thanks for any help you might be able to give me.

  4. Hi Carol! There is no law in any state that an employer must offer group health insurance to employees. This is strictly a matter of company policy. So if your employer does not offer group health insurance to any employee, you are out of luck.
    If your employer offers group health insurance to some employees, but not to you, then you might have a case. IF the employer refuses to offer your benefits because of your race, color, religion, sex, etc. then that may be illegal discrimination. You should report it to the EEOC.
    Full-time and part-time employment are a matter of company policy. The law in Pennsylvania and elsewhere does not even recognize these divisions between employees. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  5. I am a new Executive Director at a small non-profit in PA. I’ve been employed here for 9 years, and am trying to sort some things out. We have required employees to work outside of “normal business” hours from time to time, and tell them that they must use “rescheduled time”–taking time off during their normal week to keep them under 40 hours when they have to work an evening or weekend. It is an hour for hour trade off, similar to the “Comp time” only it is not bankable, and must be done within the work week that the employee works “over”. For example, I have to work five hours on a Saturday. In order to accommodate this, I take off five hours on Friday. I’ve been told that we were advised to adopt this policy to deal with special events by some lawyers at the Manufacturers and Business association. Are we handling these situations correctly or setting the stage for an overtime claim?

  6. Hi Kelly! You are handling this situation appropirately, and changing it may result in a lawsuit for overtime.
    Under both Pennsylvania and federal law, a non-exempt employee is entitled to overtime when he or she works more than 40 hours in the payroll week. Suppose Jane works an additionial 5 hours on Tuesday night. She leaves work 5 hours early on Thursday. This results in Jane working a total of 40 hours during the week. Jane is not entitled to overtime.
    However, if Jane did not take the additional time off during the same week, she would have worked 45 hours in that payroll week. Jane would be entitled to payment for 40 hours of straight time, and 5 hours of overtime at 1.5 times her average hourly rate. This would be true, even if Jane worked 35 hours the following week.
    Some non-profit agencies funded by tax dollars and goverment employers can lawfully grant an employee time off (comp time) in a different payroll week, rather than paying overtime. (However, not all non-profits fall into this category.) The comp time arrangement has to be with the employee’s permission and the employee can withdraw his or her permission at any time. If permission is withdrawn, the employee is entitled to overtime. Comp time must be granted at 1.5 hours for each hour of overtime worked. However, it is always a safer option to pay overtime, rather than grant comp time. The non-profit agency that April works for qualifies for comp time. April works an additional 5 hours this week (45 hours total.) She is paid for 40 hours straight time and has 7.5 hours of comp time (paid time off) to use during another payroll week. April can use her comp time on a day that is mutually convenient for her and the employer. However, if April quits or is fired, she must be paid for her comp time.
    If you are a salaried employee, as the non-profit director, you are almost certainly exempt. An exempt employee is never entitled to overtime. Therefore, it would be perfectly lawful for you to work 45 hours this week, not be paid overtime and not receive comp time. Many employers would not permit a salaried employee to take 5 hours off on Friday, simply because she was working 5 hours on Saturday.
    As a new non-profit director, you will probably have many HR questions. Our sister site, http://www.humanresourceblog.com, was designed specifically to address them. Feel free to post questions there. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  7. My production time begins when I put myself on a job site and my production time stops after my last job. Now my drive time to a job may take an hour and some times my drive time home can take 2 hours. I have a company vehicle and I am paid on a piece rate amount. Is it lawful for our company to have us state our hours we worked on a timesheet? We are judged on performance by a machine to up our pay. Our work trucks have a highly sensitive GPS system that tracks our every move. If we would have to state our hours we worked on paper shouldn’t we be paid from the time were in the vehicle till the time we get out of the vehicle considering we are on call from 8AM till 4:30PM?

  8. Hi Andrew! No, the issues you raise are unrelated. It is reasonable for an employer to have a GPS tracking system on a company truck. It keeps employees honest and facilitates recovery if the truck is lost or stolen.

    It is always lawful for the employer to require workers to state the hours they work on a timesheet, even if the employee is not paid by the hour. This is simply good management.

    An employee who is on call and free to go about his or her own pursuits not be paid for that time. The employee needs to be paid for the time actually worked.

    The one valid point that you bring up is travel time. The employer is not required to pay you for your normal commute to the first worksite of the day, or from the last worksite of the day. However, if you are traveling 2 hours one way, that is probably a temporary assignment outside the normal commuting area, and you are probably entitled to payment for the drive time on those occasions. Use the US Department of Labor eLaws Advisor for hours worked (at the link below) to determine if you should be paid for some drive time. If so, file a wage complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry or the U.S. Department of Labor.

    However, we are assuming in the paragraph above that you are genuinely an employee paid by the hour. If you are an independent contractor paid on a piece rate, then you may not be entitled to payment for drive time. The bottom line: just fill out the form tracking your hours worked. It is an entirely reasonable request. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

    eLaws Advisor: http://www.dol.gov/ELAWS/

  9. To whom it may concern:
    Greetings!! My question to you is this. My employer had given me a pay raise, then about six months later they decided they were paying me too much. Apparently at the time of the pay raise they (the company) didn’t have anyone in Human Resources to notify them that the increase in pay wasn’t feasable. However six months later they came in (once they got someone in HR) and said that there were going to bring us down in pay to where we should be. Can they do this, and if not how can I take legal action.?

  10. Hi Dan! Yes, the employer can increase an employee’s wages at any time and they can decrease an employee’s wages at any time, as long as the employee is notified at least one day in advance. The employer must tell you before work is performed what the wages will be, and must pay those promised wages. So there is no legal action that you can take against the employer.

    When the employer notifies you of the wage reduction, you have a choice. You can continue to work at the new wages, or you can refuse to work at the new wages and quit. If the wage reduction is significant, and you refuse, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. However, if you work even one day at the new wage, and then quit, you will not qualify for unemployment.

    It sounds like this action by the employer is a reasonable one. In the past two yearstaken , the average exempt salaried employee has taken a pay cut of 20% — and that doesn’t count the ones who are unemployed. This reduction will put you at the same salary as you earned 6 months ago, so that is actually a pretty good deal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

  11. I work for a municipal sewer authority run by a board of 5. In the summer of 2009 I turned over evidence on an employee that what cheating on his overtime (which he has been charged with 21 counts of theaft by deception) and also on a newly appointed board member that tried to pass off a fake check saying he paid his bill (still waiting for the charges to come on that one).
    Since that time they have tried many things to try and get me to quit before all this goes to court.
    Now they have reduced my hours down to 2 hrs a day and I was told it was a total of 10 hrs per week. If I should work over on one day I am to leave early on another to keep it at 10 hrs a week.
    However, last week the board member who now checks the time cards did not acknowledge the 15 min over on Mon. but did reduce me on Tues by 15 min because I was 4 min. under. He also left me a note saying if I do not sign my time card he will not sign my check. Which by the way he didnt sign on Thur. and Friday was a paid holiday for everyone and I didnt get my check until Monday morn.

  12. Hi Mary! Our advice is that you contact an attorney. In Pennsylvania, as in most states, a whistleblower law protects employees from retaliation when they report illegal conduct. The actions your employer is taking appear to be illegal retaliation based on you reporting illegal activities. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov and if they cannot help you, contact an attorney. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  13. I was wondering if anyone knows laws on vacation time? Live in PA, and I am changing jobs…the job I am at I am given 3 weeks paid vacation at the start of each year. I have not used any of my vacation time and was wondering if my company owes me those three weeks paid vacation monies. Thanks

  14. Hi Stephanie! There is no federal or Pennsylvania law that would require an employer to pay you for unused vacation at termination. This is a matter of company policy, not labor law in Pennsylvania. If the employer has a written policy or contract of paying vacation at termination, they must honor it. If the employer has a past practice of paying vacation at termination, they may have to continue or face discrimination charges. But if the employer has no such policy or practice, you will simply lose your vacation time when you leave. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  15. Hi,
    I would like to know what the Pennsylvania explantion of a work week. I think any hours consectively work would be a work week. As it stands an employer can work I could work 9 days consectively @ 8 hour days and still not have over time. I have only worked 7 consective days @ 8 hour days but, I think the laws should change to make it as consective days no more than 5 consective days with out over time. A 24 hour business has Fridays of last pay period. I work Tuesday- Friday and that would be then end of that pay periond. Then I work Saturday- Wednesday then I have two days off. Than is 9 days and veiwed as two week work period. It is taking a toll on my body and others at work. Sick days are given only after the first day is missed the second day of absentence I can get a sick day, Sick days are held against me and 3 in a year I am fired. The year is concered as the last sick day not a calendar year. Is the company right on all of the things they tell me. They are legally working me with no overtime and can hold sick time against me?

  16. Hi Nancy! Unfortunately, everything you report is legal for a small employer in Pennsylvania.

    You are using the term work week inaccurately — what you really mean is payroll week. Under both federal and Pennsylvania law, the employer must have a clearly defined payroll week of 168 consecutive hours. The payroll week can start on Saturday, or Monday, or another other day of the week. However, it must be consistent — the payroll week cannot fluctuate, starting on Thursday one week and Tuesday another week, then going back to a Thursday start. By starting every payroll week on Saturday, your employer is complying with that law.

    Under federal and Pennsylvania law, employees are entitled to overtime after working 40 hours in the payroll week. (At least one state does require overtime on the 7th consecutive day of work, but Pennsylvania does not.) Implementing the change you suggest would make it almost impossible for employers to figure payroll correctly.

    There is no law that a Pennsylvania employer must offer paid sick days, ever. If the employer does offer paid sick days, the employer can set the limits on them. An employer can set the performance standard that an employee is only allowed to miss 3 days of work before being terminated. Many employers would allow 5 to 7 sick days before firing the employee, but that is up to each individual employer. If the company has 50 or more workers within 75 miles, then an employee with a serious health condition like cancer, stroke or heart attack may be entitled to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave under FMLA, without being fired for it.

    The type of schedule you mention is very common in several industries, including restaurants, retail and hotels. Some employees do not mind working this schedule, because although they work more than 5 days in a row at times, there are other times when they are off more than 2 days in a row. In your example, if you work Tues — Fri, then Sat — Wed, then Tues — Fri again, you will have 3 days off, work 9 days and then have 5 days off. Since you are not pleased with this schedule, our suggestion is that you look for a job in another industry that offers a more reliable schedule, such as office work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  17. Hi! My question is on time spent for professional development. Does an employer need to pay staff for time spent on professional development that is beyond typical work hours (evenings and weekends)?

    Thanks for your help.

  18. Hi Lyn! That depends. If the employer requires the training and dictates when and where it will occur, then the employees may be entitled to payment for that time. Employers also must pay for on-the-job training that is specific to one employer.

    However, if the employer simply requires a credential or skill (or if the training is optional) then the employer is required to pay for it. Suppose Kerri and Chelsea work at different childcare centers. Both centers require that employees are certified in CPR. Kerri’s employer schedules CPR classes for all employees on a Thursday night, and attendance is mandatory. Kerri must be paid for those classes. Chelsea’s employer simply tells workers “by November 1, you must be certified in CPR or lose your job.” Chelsea can sign up for any CPR class she likes, anywhere, at any time. Chelsea’s employer is not required to pay her for taking the class, even if it is on a Saturday or a Thursday night, becasue the employer is not dictating the time and place of the classes.

    Another example: Leah is a paralegal who goes to law school at night. Her employer is not required to pay her while she is in classes, because this training is entirely optional. It is something that Leah is voluntarily pursuing on her own. These regulations are complex, so if you have additional questions, feel free to post additional questions. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  19. Hi, I quit my job about a month ago due to the way in which my employer was running the company. It was a nonprofit agency along with a lot that I can not prove, however I can prove that I worked 40 hrs a week and all overtime was banked. I filed for unemployment and my employer denied it, we are still awaiting a hearing. My questions are: Am I correct that I should of been paid overtime and it’s illeagal for an employer not too? Also, will this be enough to claim my case for quitting at the hearing? The only other thing that I can prove is that my employer had me pay for my own company physical for hire. Please help

  20. Hi Reggie! An employee who quits because the employer breaks the law is usually entitled to unemployment. If you were entitled to overtime under federal or Pennsylvania law, and it was not paid, then you will probably be awarded unemployment. (However, be aware that under federal law, a non-profit can grant “comp time” to an employee rather than pay overtime, and there are a number of loopholes in the Pennsylvania overtime law. And, of course, if you were exempt, you were not entitled to overtime.)

    Quitting because you did not agree with the way the employer ran the company does not qualify you for unemployment. Probably 95% of employees do not agree with the way the company is run. (Again, if the employer was breaking the law, that is a different situation.)

    The company requiring you to pay for a pre-employment physical is a gray area. Even if this was illegal, if you worked there for 2 years before you quit, it is going to look like this was not the real reason that you quit.

    You are doing the right thing by appealing — it never hurts to appeal unemployment. Simply present your case as honestly, calmly and completely as you can. Your chances of winning are about 50/50. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  21. I live in Pennsylvania and I was wondering if there is a law that defines what is full time hours? If I am a full time employee can the company work me 40 hours one week then 27 hours the next week? Can I draw unemployment for the short of hours?

  22. Hi Nancy! There is no Pennsylvania or federal law that defines a full-time or part-time employee. Each employer has the right to set their own definition. There is also no law that would prevent the employer from scheduling an employee as needed. In fact, this is the standard in many industries including hospitality and retail — employees are scheduled for more hours during busier weeks, and fewer hours when business is slow. If this scheduling is standard for this employer or this industry, then you will not qualify for unemployment benefits. You have simply accepted a full-time job where the number of hours varies.

    On the other hand,if you have consistently been scheduled for 40 hours per week for the past 6 months or more, and you are suddenly reduced to 27 hours per week for several weeks, you may very well qualify for partial unemployment benefits. The only way to know for sure is to apply. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  23. Can you tell me if there are specific laws regarding the placement of time cards. Can anyone remove them during the work day? This is a Borough. Can the secretary (who punches a card) keep a council member from viewing the cards by hiding them?

    This is being done. What agency would look into this?

  24. Hi Mary! This is a matter of company policy rather than employment law. This is not the first case of hiding time cards that we have heard of. Sometimes an employee or employees will remove the time cards in an attempt to hide the fact that they are working unauthorized overtime, or to conceal the actual number of hours worked. The employer can simply establish a policy against this (and many employers already have policies that would prevent one employee from interferring with the time card of another employee.) If the employer does not already have such a policy, they should implement one. The secretary should be disciplined or terminated for concealing the time cards, beginning immediately. No employer has to put up with this type of behavior. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  25. i have a few questions.. i am a nurse working for a staffing agency. as such we supply various clients and the pay rate will vary per client. however, at the same client one nurse is paid a certain amt thru this agency and another nurse is paid up to 8 dollars more. both have the same qualifications since this agency does not base on how long you have been a nurse or anything like that..its a set rate per facility… this is not being adhered to.. i live in the state of PA who would i address these concerns to? also if i feel i am being age discriminated against who would i talk to in PA

  26. Hi kim! There is no Pennsylvania or federal law that requires an employer to pay workers the same wage. An employer can choose to pay one worker more for a variety of legal reasons. However, if an employee is being paid less due to her race, sex, color, age (over 40), ancestry, national origin, or disability. It is also illegal under state law to discriminate against someone who has a GED rather than a high school diploma. If you are being paid less for any of these reasons, it is illegal discrimination. You can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/file_a_complaint/18976 or with the federal EEOC at http://www.eeoc.gov. Either agency will investigate and if they find discrimination, force the employer to pay back wages. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint in good faith. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

    Read more about the Pennsylvania anti-discrimination laws at : http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/phrc_home/18970/employment_discrimination/707816

  27. I have been told that a part time employee who works full time for more than 13 weeks is entitled to be a full time employee in Pennsylvania. Is this true and where can I find that information?

  28. Hi Pam! Part-time and full-time status are matters of company policy, rather than employment law. There is no Pennsylvania or federal law that addresses the issue of part-time or full-time status.

    However, there may be an issue of illegal discrimination here. When an employer provides different working conditions or benefits for employees of a different sex, race, color, religion, etc., that can be illegal discrimination. Example: John and Mary are both salespeople. Both have worked 40 hours per week for the past 3 months. John is considered a full-time employee entitled to benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation. Mary is considered a part-time employee without those benefits. This would probably be illegal discrimination based on sex, under both Pennsylvania and federal law. If the two employees were the same sex but of different race, color or religion, this would also be illegal discrimination.

    If you have worked full time for the past 13 weeks and believe you are entitled to full-time status, you should tactfully approach the HR department or employer about this issue. If it is not resolved to your satisfaction, and other employees who work the same hours have full-time benefits, file a complaint of illegal discrimination based on sex, race, color, etc. (whatever applies) with the federal EEOC at http://www.eeoc.gov. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a complaint in good faith, even if the investigation shows no discrimination occurred. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

  29. Message: My questions is a small company in PA – approximately 20 employees. An employee missed time due to hospitalization for a drug overdose. (We know this since his mother informed us) Employee worked 20-25 hours per week. My questions are 3 fold:

    Must we take this employee back if he wants to come back?
    Must we employ him the same number of hours (we are considering a company wide reduction in hours due to the economy)
    Must we take him back at his current wage or do we have the option to reduce him back to minimum wage (where other new employees start)

  30. Hi Joanie! No, you probably cannot take any of those actions against an employee who took an overdose.

    The first thing you need to know is that drug addiction and depression are both disabilities under ADA, the Americans with Disabilites Act. That federal law applies to employers with 15 or more workers. Basically, to avoid illegal discrimination based on a disability, you should treat this employee like any other worker with a serious medical problem.

    It is unfortunate that the mother volunteered the info that he took an overdose, because knowing that makes life a lot more complicated for you as an employer.

    If the employee is a drug user, and took an accidental overdose, he may have the right to unpaid time off to go to rehab. He does not have the right to use drugs at work or be under the influence of illegal drugs at work. However, it would be illegal retaliation for you to fire this employee, reduce his wages or cut his hours due to his medical problem or disability.

    If the employee was depressed, and tried to kill himself by taking an overdose, again, depression is often a disability under ADA. The employee may be entitled to unpaid time off work for treatment. You cannot retaliate against him, nor can this medical information be considered in making employment decisions.

    Under ADA, an employee’s medical information must be kept private, even from his supervisor. It is illegal discrimination under ADA to consider the employee’s medical information when making employment decisions such as lay off, hours, wages, promotions, training, etc.

    Theoretically, you can take any action against this employee that would have been taken anyway if he had never missed a day or taken an overdose. However, when an employee is a member of a protected group, it is wise to seek legal advice before taking any negative action against the employee. Our recommendation is that you return this employee to his usual job and hours, at his usual rate of pay. If you are unable to do that, you should get legal advice before making any changes. We see absolutely no justification for returning this employee to minimum wage. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

    Read more about this at: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm and http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/performance-conduct.html#alcohol

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