A sunny day in the State of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania workers enjoy both federal and state protections regarding overtime pay and labor rights. However, in some areas, Pennsylvania law provides a number of more robust benefits for workers compared to federal law. Not all employees are treated fairly or legally and often have their wage payment rights violated by their employers. If you’re one of these individuals, or you have questions about minimum wage, overtime, and related matters, The Lore Law Firm is here to answer them.

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The Basics of Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Law

Pennsylvania’s regular minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal rate. Tipped employees may be paid $2.83/hour (higher than the federal rate of $2.13/hour) provided they earn $135.00/month in tips. The employer must make up any difference if tips plus the $2.83 rate do not meet the regular minimum wage rate.

There are a number of exemptions to the state minimum wage law, including for the following work:

  • Farm labor
  • In-house domestic service
  • Newspaper delivery
  • Publication of small newspapers
  • Outside sales
  • Educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organization service
  • Golf caddy
  • Certain seasonal youth employment involving children with disabilities or recreational camp
  • Certain public amusement or recreational activity work
  • Switchboard operator employed by a small telephone company
  • Elective office holders and staff
  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees
  • Learners, students, and individuals with a physical or mental deficiency (these categories require special permission)

Allowances For Minimum Wage

Employers are allowed to include, as wages, reasonable costs for board, lodging, and other facilities. These allowances permit employers to meet the required minimum wage by giving benefits other than direct wages to their employees. The employee must be notified of the allowance and accept it as a condition of employment at the time of hire or change in classification. Certain other restrictions apply to the use of allowances.

Minimum Wage For City And State Contractors And Employees

In some municipalities, there are different minimum wage rules for city contractors and individuals employed by the government. For example, in Philadelphia, government employees, contractors, and subcontractors must be paid $15.00 per hour as of July 1, 2022. From July 1, 2023 onward, the rate will continue to increase according to calculations using the Consumer Price Index. In Pittsburgh, the minimum wage for city workers increased to $15.00/hour in 2021.

In January 2022, Pennsylvania state workers (not in the private sector) saw their minimum wage jump to $15.00/hour.

Pennsylvania Overtime Rules

All hours worked over 40 per week must be compensated at 1.5 times the employee’s regular wage (time and a half). This rule applies to salaried non-exempt employees as well, because the fluctuating workweek method of overtime pay calculation (a/k/a “Chinese Overtime”) is not permitted under state law.

The Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (PMWA) is the state equivalent of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The PMWA and FLSA both govern overtime pay obligations for Pennsylvania employers. While the laws’ requirements are similar, they are not identical. Employers in Pennsylvania must follow both laws, and where one law is more favorable to employees than the other, employers must follow the one that is more pro-employee.

What Counts As “Hours Worked” In Pennsylvania?

One significant way in which Pennsylvania overtime pay laws are more favorable to workers is that non-exempt workers (e.g. workers paid hourly, piece-rate, or day-rate) must be paid for every minute spent performing “work.” Pennsylvania wage law is much broader than federal law in defining what counts as hours worked. The law requires that workers be paid for time during which an employee is required by the employer to be on the premises of the employer, to be on duty, or to be at a prescribed workplace.

More specifically, hours worked includes:

  • All time during which an employee is required to be at a designated work location
  • All time during which an employee is required to be on duty or to be at a designated work site
  • All time spent traveling as part of the employee’s job during normal working hours
  • All time during which an employee is permitted to do work

An example of this issue recently arose in a case involving Amazon. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mandatory security screenings do count as hours worked, because workers are under Amazon’s control during these security checks. Those few minutes each day therefore count as hours worked and the employee must be paid for them.

Some examples of unpaid work that should count as paid time may include:

  • Waiting to undergo, and actually undergoing, security screenings or bag checks
  • Waiting to undergo, and actually undergoing, Covid-19 screenings (e.g. tests and temperature checks)
  • Computer boot up, sign in, and download time spent prior to being “clocked in” at work
  • “Clocking out” before spending time shutting down programs and logging out
  • Waiting on assignments or being told when to begin, while on work premises
  • Receiving or sharing work-related information (pre- or post-shift “relief time”)
  • Walking, riding, and traveling to and from the actual place of work (e.g. when the employee is required to park in a remote lot and take a bus)
  • Driving to or from home in a company vehicle if the employee does some work or starts working before leaving home, talks on the phone or text for work purposes while driving, or continues to perform work tasks after arriving home. 
  • Changing in and out of required work clothes
  • Sending or receiving work-related emails and texts or using employer smartphone apps while “off the clock”   
  • Checking voicemail or emails at the start of the day
  • Time spent developing a plan, schedule, or route for the day
  • Time reading or completing required paperwork
  • Time loading or stocking equipment

Overtime Exemptions In Pennsylvania

The above-listed exemptions from minimum wage apply to the state’s overtime rules as well. In addition, the following occupations are specifically exempted from the overtime rules:

  • Seamen
  • Certain salesmen, partsmen, and mechanics primarily engaged in selling and servicing automobiles, trailers, trucks, farm implements, or aircraft
  • Taxi drivers
  • Certain employees of federally regulated motor carriers
  • Any employee engaged in the processing of maple sap into sugar (other than refined sugar) or
  • syrup
  • Motion picture theater employees
  • Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of a radio or television station, depending on the city in which the major studio is located
  • Certain air carrier employees regulated by Title II of the Railway Labor Act

Pennsylvania Holiday, Sick Leave, And Vacation Laws

Employers are not required to give employees paid holidays off or additional pay for working on holidays. Pennsylvania labor laws also do not require that employers provide benefits like sick leave, vacation pay, or severance pay. If provided, the employer must follow its own policies for these types of payments.

Some Pennsylvania cities have their own rules concerning these types of pay. For example, employees who work at least 40 hours per year within Philadelphia city limits will be eligible to earn paid and unpaid sick leave. If an employer has 10 or more employees, it must provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave.

Pennsylvania Meal Break And Rest Period Laws

Meal and rest breaks are not required for adult employees (age 18 and over). Minors between 14 and 17 years old must receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes if they work 5 or more consecutive hours. If an employer does give a break and the break is less than 20 minutes, employees must be paid for this time. If employees are given a meal break lasting more than 20 minutes and are relieved of all work during this period, the employee does not have to pay for this time.

Required Pay Periods In Pennsylvania

Employers must pay employees on regularly scheduled paydays designated by the employer. Employees must be informed during hiring of the time and place of payment and the pay rate and fringe benefits to be paid. The time between the end of the pay period and the payday must not exceed:

  • Time specified in a written contract between the employer and employee;
  • The standard customary in the trade; or
  • 15 days

Payroll Deductions For Pennsylvania Workers

Employers may make deductions from their employee’s wages that are required by law. In addition, employees may give written permission for deductions to be made that benefit the employee (for example, to pay back a loan from a third party). Blanket deduction authorizations signed at hiring will not be valid. Deductions generally cannot reduce gross pay below minimum wage.

As with other aspects of Pennsylvania labor law, some cities provide additional protections to workers. As an example, a Pennsylvania employer that allows patrons to pay gratuities by credit card must pay employees the full amount of the gratuity indicated on the credit card slip, without any deduction for credit card payment processing fees or costs. Payment of gratuities made by patrons using credit cards shall be made to the employees not later than the next regular payday following the date the credit card payment was authorized.

Payroll Records For Pennsylvania Employees

Employees must be provided with a pay stub for each pay period. The stub must show the beginning and ending dates of the pay period, the number of hours worked, the pay rate, the amount earned, itemized deductions, and net pay.

Statute of Limitations For Pennsylvania Wage And Hour Claims

Employees do not have an unlimited amount of time to file complaints concerning unpaid wages or minimum wage or overtime violations. Under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, an employee must file a complaint within three years of the date the wages were due and payable. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the employee can win back pay, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the back pay, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

Contact Our Pennsylvania Wage And Hour Attorney

Even though you have up to three years to take legal action, it’s a good idea to not wait. Records can be misplaced, lost, or destroyed and details can be forgotten with time. If you suspect that you have not been paid correctly for your work, or that your employer is violating other state or federal wage and hour protections, contact The Lore Law Firm today. Our legal team is ready to listen to your issues and provide a free and confidential review of your situation.