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The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor released a report regarding back wage figures in 2022. It showed that employees in the country are owed an average of $1,393 by their employers. This reflects one of the issues faced by workers throughout the U.S., including in Pennsylvania. 

In line with this, there have been numerous cases where employers refuse to pay their employees overtime wages or avoid doing so. Examples include two nursing facilities owing $256,684 in back wages to 231 nursing staff and ComForCare avoiding paying $2.4 million in overtime back wages to 345 workers.

These issues became a factor in why labor standards in the state have declined and why workers are abandoning their jobs due to unfair wage rates. But is Pennsylvania generally considered a bad state to work in because of these statistics? In several ways, the answer would be no.

In fact, its unemployment rate in 2023 is lower than the previous year; there has been an increase in nonfarm jobs and roles in the education and health services industries.

Nevertheless, the cases stated above are examples of how some businesses in the state try to go against the system. To know how to combat them, it is important to be aware of Pennsylvania's labor and employment laws. These include the minimum wage rate, overtime requirements, and what constitutes wrongful termination.

This article will discuss these points to help you better understand the laws that govern the workforce in the state.

Pennsylvania Wage and Hour Laws

Minimum Wage Laws

In 2006, the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act was amended, establishing a fixed $7.25 per hour minimum wage rate in the state. However, this only applies to regular employees since tipped workers are paid a minimum of $2.83 per hour.

It is worth noting that, to be classified as a tipped employee, you have to earn more than $30 in tips per month.

Overtime Laws

In a single workweek, if an employee in Pennsylvania works for more than 40 hours, they are entitled to a special hourly rate of $10.88 for the extra hours. Administrative and executive employees, musicians, and other creative professionals are exempt from receiving overtime pay.

Other types of workers that are exempt from overtime pay include:

  • Taxicab drivers.

  • Farm laborers.

  • Newspaper delivery workers.

  • Bona fide outside salesmen.

  • Domestic service workers.

  • Golf caddies.

This list of exempt workers is not exhaustive, which is why it pays to know if you’re eligible for overtime pay before you accept any work beyond your regular shift.

Workplace Break Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania employers are required to give work breaks to employees who are 14 to 17 years old if they work five or more hours. But if an employee is already 18 or older, their employer is not required to grant them breaks.

Any work break that lasts less than 20 minutes will still be paid. However, this rule does not apply to meal breaks since an employer is not required to pay employees if they are not working during their meal period.

Meanwhile, the employers of seasonal farm workers in Pennsylvania are legally required to provide them with a 30-minute lunch break.

Pennsylvania Workplace Leave Laws

Jury Duty Leave

Pennsylvania employers must grant employees time off to attend to their jury duties.

Generally, employers cannot threaten or question a worker for receiving a summons or attending a court procedure. If they refuse to allow a worker to take time off, they will face a legal charge. However, this rule does not apply to employers in the manufacturing sector with fewer than 40 employees or those in retail with fewer than 15 workers.

Military Leave

Employees who are attending to their military duties are required to be given work leave by their employers. These employees can include:

  • Those called into active duty.

  • Military reservists.

  • Individuals drafted or enlisted during a time of war.

  • Those called by the governor or president in an emergency.

Private-sector employees who leave their work to join the military get unpaid leave. Meanwhile, public employees are given up to 15 days of paid military leave. 

Employees who return from military duty must be reinstated to their previous job with a similar position, pay, and seniority. Additionally, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against or fire them for performing their duties in the military.

Sick Leave

Pennsylvania has no state law requiring employers to grant their employees paid sick leave. However, those with more than 50 employees can offer unpaid sick leave to workers eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which will be discussed in the next section.

While there is an absence of state laws regarding sick leaves, there are regulations that govern them in certain jurisdictions. These include:

  • Philadelphia Sick Leave

  • Businesses in the city with 10 or more workers must provide paid or unpaid sick leaves to those who have completed at least 40 hours of work in a year.

  • If a business has nine or fewer employees, sick leave will be unpaid.

  • Some types of workers exempt from this are interns, seasonal workers, adjunct professors, independent contractors, and state and federal employees.

  • Allegheny Sick Leave

  • Employers in this county must provide paid sick leave if they employ 26 or more workers.

  • Independent contractors and seasonal workers are exempt from this type of leave.

  • Pittsburgh

  • Despite being located in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh has its own sick leave laws. 

  • All employees in this city who work for at least 35 hours per year are eligible to take sick leave.

  • Exempted workers are seasonal employees, independent contractors, construction union members, and state and federal staff.

Family and Medical Leave

A Pennsylvania employee is eligible to take limited leaves under the FMLA if:

  • They work at a company with at least 50 staff members within 75 miles.

  • They worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in a calendar year.

  • They have been employed by the company for one year.

An employee can use this leave to:

  • Cater to their spouse, parent, minor children, or children with a disability if they have a serious health condition.

  • Work on adoption papers, place their kids in foster care, or care for their newborn.

  • Take a break from work to cater to their own serious health condition.

Eligible employees can take 12 weeks of leave per year under this act. They don’t have to take their leave all at once since the FMLA allows them to have intermittent leaves.

Moreover, under this act, their employer is required to maintain any existing health coverage that they have and must allow them to take their previous job position upon return from leave.

Leaves for Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Victims

Although there are no state laws in Pennsylvania about workplace leaves for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, the city of Philadelphia has established its own laws regarding this matter.

The Philadelphia Domestic Abuse Leave Ordinance allows workers who are victims of stalking, sexual assault, or domestic violence to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave from work in a year.

Eligible employees are those who have completed six months of continuous work in the company and can be either regular part-time or full-time staff members. They can use this leave to obtain therapy and counseling, get medical attention, or seek legal assistance for court proceedings.

Non-required Leaves

Private employers are not required by the law to provide certain types of leaves, which means it is up to an employer’s discretion whether to provide them or not. Non-required work leaves include holiday and vacation, bereavement, and voting leaves.

However, public employees can be granted the following leaves:

  • Bereavement

  • Three days of paid leave will be given if an employee’s immediate family member passes away.

  • Holidays and Vacations

  • During the first three years of employment, a state employee can have up to 11 days of paid leave per year.

  • Workers who have been in service for three to 15 years are eligible to receive 19 days of paid holiday leave per year.

  • If an employee has been in service for 15 years, they can have 24 days of paid leave per year.

Is Pennsylvania an At-Will Employment State?

Yes, Pennsylvania is an at-will employment state. This means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, even without proper reason, as long as it does not violate any laws. 

Similarly, workers can quit their jobs at any time without fear of facing any consequences or the need to give a reason for leaving.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Pennsylvania?

Despite being subject to at-will employment rules, Pennsylvania businesses should still adhere to the scope and limitations of the law when terminating employees. For instance, firing an employee based on discriminatory reasons is considered wrongful termination and translates to penalties under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Other than discriminatory reasons, an employee also cannot be removed from their job if they refuse to commit a crime for their employer, take the leave they’re supposed to have or stand up for their rights.

In addition, an employer cannot terminate a worker so easily if their employment relationship is bound by a contract stipulating the duration of the worker’s employment. Thus, firing them despite the existence of said contract constitutes wrongful termination.

Take note that there is a difference between wrongful and unfair termination, with the latter not being a sufficient cause for filing a case against an employer. This is because unfair firing is mostly based on reasons that involve favoritism or nepotism, which are not a legal basis for a claim.

How Do You Report an Employer in Pennsylvania for Wrongful Termination?

You can file a wrongful termination claim against your employer with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission if you have been fired based on discrimination. To do this, call 717-787-4410 or visit the regional office nearest your workplace:

Philadelphia Regional Office
110 North 8th Street, Suite 501
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Harrisburg Regional Office
333 Market Street, 8th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101-2210

Pittsburgh Regional Office
301 Fifth Avenue, Suite 390, Piatt Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

To start the procedure, complete and submit the Employment Discrimination Intake Questionnaire. This form may be used not just for wrongful termination claims but also for cases involving discrimination during the hiring process.

You can also visit the Philadelphia District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you have been removed from work due to retaliation. You can reach the agency by dialing 1-800-669-4000 or sending an email to Its office is located at:

801 Market Street, Suite 1000
Philadelphia, PA 19107-3126

Another way to file a wrongful dismissal claim, particularly in situations involving breach of contract or retaliation, is to work with an attorney near you. They can help you protect your legal rights and determine the right course of action.

Take note that there are laws in Pennsylvania that may punish those who file false complaints against their employer. This is why you must provide accurate case details and determine if you have actually been wrongly terminated.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Pennsylvania?

There are different deadlines for filing a wrongful termination claim in Pennsylvania based on the reason you were fired.

If you were terminated for discriminatory reasons, you have 180 days to file a claim against your employer with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. For wrongful termination involving other reasons, you have up to two years to file a complaint in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

There are also statutes of limitations to pursue legal action against your employer if they violate the following employment laws:

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Pennsylvania for Wrongful Termination?

In Pennsylvania, the value of a wrongful termination case depends on the damages or losses incurred by the victim, including attorney fees, job search costs, and lost benefits or earnings. These damages may be recovered through a court proceeding or settling out of court. The latter is typically what defendants choose to avoid hefty compensation amounts, which may range from $110,000 to $450,000.

However, this doesn’t mean settling out of court automatically results in obtaining compensation with a smaller value. For instance, consider the case filed by the EEOC on behalf of six individuals against the Saint Vincent Health Center:

Six employees filed a case against their company in 2013 after they were wrongfully terminated for refusing to be vaccinated due to their religious beliefs. Prior to being fired, they experienced discrimination at work. They reported the unlawful act against them to the EEOC, and their case resulted in a $300,000 settlement.

This goes to show that since every situation is different, it’s important to determine how much your case is worth.

Resources for Employees in Pennsylvania

Listed below is a list of resources available to employees who need legal assistance in Pennsylvania. These also focus on helping workers with their job search journey, as well as showing them websites that contain information about the benefits offered to workers in the state.

Employee Assistance Program

The Employee Assistance Program of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is a referral service that provides free assessments for state employees. With this, workers can have access to lawyers and schedule free face-to-face and phone consultations with them. 

Employees can also use this program to receive financial counseling, particularly for home buying, credit card debt, and budget planning. Moreover, it offers legal mediation solutions at a fair rate.

Pennnsylvania CareerLink

Pennsylvania CareerLink is a service under the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry established in 2012. This platform aims to help job seekers search and apply for jobs across the state by recommending positions that fit their profile.


PAsmart provides employee training programs and apprenticeships in Pennsylvania. This platform is designed to help workers and even students prepare for their future careers by showing them the information they need about the state’s industries and evolving economy. Its website also contains links and details regarding the state’s funding priorities that focus on stakeholder engagement, cross-sector alignment, and capacity building.

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