Pennsylvania Labor Laws

Updated: 03/06/2020

Pennsylvania Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 per hour. For hours worked over 40 in any workweek, hourly workers must be paid at 1½ times their regular rate of pay.

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History of Pennsylvania Labor Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) initially set the U.S. minimum wage at $0.25 per hour. It has been raised a total of 22 times. That last happened in July 2009, when the federal minimum rate went to $7.25 an hour.

Pennsylvania had a minimum wage of $1.15 in 1968. By 1968, the rate had risen to $3.35. It reached $4.25 in 1992 and $5.15 in 1998. It went to $7.25 an hour in 2009 to comply with the federal minimum. The state's governor has consistently pushed for an increase to that hourly minimum wage for all workers, but by the end of 2019 that had not happened.

Pennsylvania is one of 16 states whose minimum wage matches the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. A total of 29 states set the bar higher than the federal minimum hourly rate, while five do not have any state-specific minimum.

Maine, California and Massachusetts rank high on the list of states where the hourly minimum wage is highest, with each setting its hourly rate above $10.

Municipality Labor Laws

When it comes to minimum hourly wage, federal law essentially establishes a floor, not a ceiling. That's why Pennsylvania raised its rate to $7.25 when federal law set that number as the minimum.

Just as states are allowed to exceed the minimum set by law, municipalities generally can do so as well. But not always, and not in Pennsylvania.

That's because Pennsylvania is one of many states that have passed state laws that preempt cities from setting a local minimum wage. In other words, in those states local change with regard to minimum wage has to happen at the state level.

According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, in mid-December of 2019 there were 51 counties and cities in the United States – including more than half of that total in California – that had their own minimum wage laws.

At the end of 2019, no Pennsylvania city or county appeared on the list.

That's not to say Pennsylvania will never see higher hourly rates in certain cities, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But people waiting to see higher across-the-board minimum hourly rates in particular cities in Pennsylvania shouldn't hold their breath, especially in light of the fact that at the end of 2019 the state minimum had been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.

Pennsylvania Labor Law Exemptions

Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry lists the following exemptions from both minimum wage and overtime rates:

  • Farm labor.
  • Domestic service in or about the employer's private home.
  • Newspaper delivery to consumers.
  • Publication of a weekly, semi-weekly or daily newspaper with a circulation of less than 4,000, when the major portion of circulation is either in the county where the paper is published or a bordering county.
  • Executive, administrative or professional employees, or outside salesman.
  • Educational, charitable, religious or nonprofit organization when there is no employment relationship and the service is rendered gratuitously.
  • Golf caddy.
  • Seasonal employees if the employee is under 18 or if a student under 24 works for a nonprofit health or welfare agency engaged in activities dealing with disabled or exceptional children or by a nonprofit seasonal recreational day camp for campers under age 18, as long as it operates less than three months out of the year.
  • Employment by a public amusement or recreational business, organized camp, or religious or nonprofit educational conference center, as long as it does not operate more than seven months out of the year or during the prior year it average receipts for any six months did not exceed a third of its average receipts for the other six months
  • Switchboard operators who work for independently owned public telephone companies that have no more than 750 stations
  • Employees who are not subject to civil service laws and hold elective office or work for an elected official as a staffer, adviser or policy-maker.

Learners and students who obtain a special certificate from the state can be paid 85% of the minimum wage. Also, certain individuals with disabilities can be paid less if proper licensing or certification is obtained.

Also exempt from overtime rates only:

  • Seamen
  • Salesmen, parts men and mechanics who are primarily engaged in selling and servicing autos, trailers, trucks, farm implements or aircraft, if they work for a company that doesn't manufacture the product and sells to end users
  • Taxi drivers
  • Motor carrier employees who are regulated by the federal Secretary of Transportation
  • Announcers, news editors, chief engineers at radio or television stations, subject to size restrictions that are based on studio locations
  • Employees who process maple sap into sugar or syrup
  • Employees of motion picture theaters.

Pennsylvania Posting Requirements

Federal law applies in all states, so a good starting point when it comes to posting requirements is a look at what federal law says.

Here are some of the federal laws that include notice requirements for employers to whom the statute applies.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping and youth employment standards for covered employers.
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible employees the right to take unpaid but job-protected leave for a number of specified reasons.
  • The Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which generally bans most private employers from using lie detector tests for pre-employment screening and during employment.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act, which broadly regulates workplace safety.
  • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which protects the civilian employment rights of military servicemembers and veterans.
  • The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by setting standards in a number of areas, including wages, houses, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping.
  • The Walsh/Healey Public Contracts Act and McNamara-O-Hara Service Contract Act, which require some federal contractors and subcontractors to pay employees fair wages.
  • The Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs immigration law.
  • The Davis-Bacon and Related Act, which set requirements relating to certain federal contractors and subcontractors.

Not all of these laws apply to all employers – and figuring out exactly which ones apply involves maneuvering through a complicated maze that takes a number of specific factors into account.

That means the answer to the question of exactly which notices must be posted varies depending on the employer.

Some posting requirements apply to Pennsylvania employers in particular. These include postings related to:

  • Abstract of the state's child labor act's labor provisions
  • Minimum wage law poster and fact sheet
  • Abstract of the Equal Pay Law
  • Pennsylvania Worker and Community Right to Know Act
  • Unemployment compensation for state employees
  • Workers' compensation information, including information regarding designated health care providers.

Tipped Wage in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania employers can pay as little as $2.83 per hour to employees who make at least $30 a month in tips. If tips received in addition to the lower rate do not bring the employee's hourly rate up at least the minimum hourly wage of $7.25, then the employer must make up the difference to reach the $7.25 minimum.

The difference between the required hourly minimum rate of $7.25 and any lower hourly rate paid is known as a "tip credit." In Pennsylvania, the maximum tip credit available to employers is $4.42 ($7.25 - $2.83).

Employers who take a tip credit have to tell employees that they are doing so, so that employees understand why their base hourly rate is lower than the legal minimum.

Here's an example of how the tip credit works:

Louis is a waiter whose employer takes the maximum tip credit of $4.42 and pays him $2.83 per hour. He works eight hours and makes just $10 in tips. His hourly pay plus the tips bring his total to $32.64. But the law requires that he earn at least $7.25 an hour. That means he must earn at least $58 ($7.25 x 8). The employer must make up the difference between the required minimum of $58 and the amount earned of $32.64. In this example, the employer must pay the difference of $25.36.

Pennsylvania employers can form "tip pools," which means that they can collect tips and redistribute them to staffers. Employers cannot keep any portion of an employee's tips, and neither managers nor supervisors can participate in a tip pool. Employers must notify employees in advance if there is a tip pool.

If the employer takes a tip credit, it cannot force tipped employees to share tips with employees who do not typically receive tips, like cooks. However, tips can be shared with such employees if the employer doesn't claim a tip credit.

Overtime Wage in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, nonexempt employees must be paid at a rate equal to 1.5 times their regular hourly rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This requirement matches the requirement set by federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Because the minimum hourly rate is $7.25, the minimum hourly overtime rate is $10.88.

No overtime pay is due to any employee who is "engaged in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity." Also excluded from overtime under state law are:

  • Seamen
  • Salesmen, parts men and mechanics who are primarily engaged in selling and servicing autos, trailers, trucks, farm implements or aircraft, if they work for a company that doesn't manufacture the product and sells to end users
  • Taxi drivers
  • Motor carrier employees who are regulated by the federal Secretary of Transportation
  • Announcers, news editors, chief engineers at radio or television stations, subject to size restrictions that are based on studio locations
  • Employees who process maple sap into sugar or syrup
  • Employees of motion picture theaters.

In some instances, Pennsylvania law provides employees with greater protection than federal law when it comes to overtime. When there is a conflict, the law that provides the employee with greater protection will be applied.

For example, federal law does not require overtime for certain computer employees. Because Pennsylvania law does not similarly exclude those same employees from entitlement to overtime pay, they are entitled to overtime as long as some other exclusion does not apply.

As another example, federal regulations permit employers to restrict overtime payable to employees who earn more than $107,432 per year. This exclusion does not apply to Pennsylvania employers.

Child Labor Laws in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a child labor law that was enacted to help keep minors safe and healthy by banning their employment in certain occupations and under certain ages. Under the law, a minor is anyone under the age of 18.

Except for farm work or domestic service in a private home, the law covers all establishments. It also requires minors to get work permits before they start working.

Minors under the age of 14 are generally not allowed to work in any occupation. However, children who are at least 12 can work as golf caddies, but only if they carry no more than one bag and work no more than 18 holes in a day. In addition, children who are at least 11 can deliver newspapers.

For those under 16, the minor's parent or guardian must provide a written statement that grants the minor permission to work and acknowledges an understanding of the duties and hours that will be worked.

For minors under 18, completion of an Application for Minors in Performances is required with respect to employment in modeling or artistic creative expression in a broadcast medium that is transmitted to an audience.

School districts can refuse to issue work permits, and can revoke them, if they believe allowing the minor to work would prevent him from achieving adequate academic performance.

Minors are banned from performing certain occupations, such as crane operator and excavator. You can find the complete list here.

Employer Recordkeeping Requirements

Here are selected record retention requirements in Pennsylvania.

State regulations relating to minimum wage establish specific requirements for employers relating to recordkeeping. Under this regulation, employers must preserve certain records for three years.

The records required under the minimum wage regulation include:

  • Full name and any worker ID number that is used
  • Home address with zip code
  • Hourly pay rate
  • Occupation
  • Time and day that the workweek starts
  • Number of hours worked daily and weekly
  • Total daily or weekly straight-time wages
  • Total overtime excess compensation for the workweek
  • Additions to or deductions from wages for each pay period
  • Allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage
  • Total wages paid for each pay period
  • Date of payment and pay period covered by the payment
  • Special certificates for students and learners.

For workers who are not paid hourly, the records must show the basis on which workers are paid.

The state's Unemployment Compensation Regulation separately requires employers to retain certain records for four years. These include records containing the following information for each worker:

  • Social Security number
  • Full name
  • Wage rate
  • Total remuneration paid for each pay period by type of payment
  • Traveling or other business expenses incurred and accounted for, with dates
  • Place of employment
  • Scheduled hours and hours worked
  • Daily attendance record
  • Date and reason for separation, if separated
  • Number of credit weeks
  • Documentation of payments made
  • In certain cases, contracts between the employer and a third party
  • Any contract between the employer and worker
  • Records supporting the employer's position that the worker is an independent contractor, if the employer believes that is the case
  • Federal and state tax returns for the periods when the worker was employed.

Public contractors and subcontractors must keep records showing the name, craft and hourly rate of wage paid to each workman employed by him in connection with public work. The records must be kept for two years from date of payment. (43 P.S. § 165.6)

Employers must make Material Safety Data Sheets available to employees for every hazardous substance or hazardous mixture to which the employees might be exposed. (35 P.S. § 7305)

Recent Pennsylvania Labor Law Updates

Fair Labor Standards Act and Employee Polygraph Protection Act Posters have updated - May 2018

The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation poster has been updated to reflect a change to the agency contact information. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Workers' Compensation has replaced the phone numbers to the PA Relay 7-1-1 to file claims and obtain additional information for the hearing impaired.

Pennsylvania Labor Law Questions & Answers

Pennsylvania Combined Federal and State Kit plus Update Service

Have all of your state and federal required posters updated whenever the laws change.