Karl Heideck’s Guide to Pennsylvania Employment Law for Small Businesses

Do you operate a Pennsylvania business? There are a few things that you need to keep in mind regarding your workforce. Although labor laws are constantly evolving, it’s critical that you stay ahead of the curve. Here’s how employment regulations influence your compliance obligations and corporate future.

Critical Laws That Impact Pennsylvanian Companies

Employment law has a broad scope that touches on a vast range of practices. Some of the regulations that bind you may be specific to your industry or business model. For instance, if you employ legal minors, or individuals under the age of 18, then you’ll need to adhere to the Pennsylvania Child Labor Law, or CLL.

Other provisions are more broadly applicable regardless who’s in your workforce. Understand these critical rules:

Minimum Wage and Labor Practices: The Fair Labor Standards Act

This law, also known as the FLSA, lays down the rules for when you need to pay your employees minimum wage. It also covers overtime, your tabulation and recording of work hours, and your duty to post FLSA requirements visibly at your premises.

Although the FLSA governs the minimum wage, it’s important to remember that these federal rules don’t override state laws. For instance, as of June 2017, most Pennsylvanian workers who earned minimum wage received the same $7.25 hourly rate that the FLSA set. Since 2016, however, individuals who worked for the state’s government or contractors that bid on state jobs earned $10.15 when making minimum wage. If you’re unsure whether you need to pay federal or state minimum wage, the general rule is to pick the higher of the two.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Also known as the FMLA, this federal law ensures that eligible employees are allowed to take leave when it’s related to their family or medical needs. During someone’s FMLA leave, you don’t have to pay them, but you can’t penalize them by firing them from their job or cut back their group health insurance eligibility.

Employees covered by the FMLA may take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. Valid reasons for taking leave include when workers

  • Need to care for their children, parents or spouses who have serious health problems,
  • Are having a new baby or need to care for one who was born less than a year ago,
  • Are adopting or foster parenting a new child,
  • Can’t perform their job due to their own serious health issues, or
  • Have military spouses, offspring or parents who get injured.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Employees are getting older, and employers must afford elderly workers the same rights that they’d grant their younger counterparts. If you fail to do so, you could face discrimination lawsuits or fines.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, dates back to 1967. It was originally intended to stop bosses who employ more than 20 people from discriminating against workers above the age of 40. Navigating this law isn’t as simple as determining whether you meet these basic tenets, however. For instance, if you operate a consumer research organization, then you may have a valid reason for restricting certain employment offers based on applicants’ ages or other demographics.

The ADEA applies to government institutions and contractors. As workforces grow progressively older, however, legislators may expand the law to protect more employees.

IRS Worker Classification

Should you withhold income and Social Security taxes from your workers’ paychecks? There’s a big difference between part-timers and independent contractors. Bodies like the IRS apply various rubrics to gauge how much control you exert over your workers and determine whether they should be classified as employees.

It’s critical that you understand these distinctions so that you don’t fall afoul of tax regulations. Also, remember that the federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA, that you must pay the IRS are separate from the sums required by the state’s unemployment contribution law.

Hiring, Harassment and Discrimination: Equal Employment Laws

While the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, or EEOC, may be the first agency you think of when it comes to employment discrimination claims, it’s not the only body with jurisdiction. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, or PHRC, also fields claims, and the state’s Human Relations Act may mean that you’re subject to anti-discrimination guidelines that the EEOC excludes.

The PHRC typically deals with companies that have between 4 and 14 workers, but the EEOC handles enterprises with at least 15. Both prohibit hiring and employment discrimination based on protected classes, like race, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age.

Situation-specific Laws

In addition to state-level laws, federal legislation and rules that only impact your industry, you may be subject to statutes imposed by your city, county or township. For instance, in 2017, Philadelphia barred employers who do business in the city from asking about new hires’ wage histories.

Employment law is exceedingly complex, but this isn’t an excuse for falling behind. Many small business owners find it helpful to consult with legal experts about their obligations.

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About Karl Heideck

Karl Heideck is a Philadelphia-based contract attorney who works hard to help businesses do right by their employees. Karl Heideck firmly believes in assisting firms that strive to adhere to the spirit of the law and not just its letter.

Karl Heideck has practiced in various fields of employment and contract law for more than a decade. In addition to coming directly to the aid of companies that would otherwise struggle to master the complex nuances of their regulatory obligations, he routinely contributes to online news sources and blogs by explaining the evolution of Pennsylvanian law and its impact on businesses.

During the time he spent as a Pepper Hamilton LLP project attorney and a Conrad O’Brien associate, Mr. Heideck gained invaluable experience fighting for enterprises and individuals alike. Karl always looks forward to applying his exhaustive knowledge in challenging new cases.

For more information, connect with Karl Heideck on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.