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.

More by Karl Heideck:  Career Spotlight: Litigation with Karl Heideck

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.

Career Spotlight: Litigation with Karl Heideck

While litigation attorneys may represent criminal clients, real estate firms or individuals who are filing personal injury claims, people are usually referring to civil issues when they talk about litigation attorneys. These attorneys prepare cases for trial. However, up to 90% of cases do not go to trial. Most cases are settled out of court. In criminal proceedings, defendants usually take a plea deal. In personal injury, real estate and other civil cases, plaintiffs often accept a settlement.

Life As A Litigation Attorney

Most civil litigation lawyers work for law firms that employ several attorneys. Some may work in boutique firms or have a private practice. Larger law firms usually have litigation departments, and some have sub-departments for business, real estate, patents and other types of law. While the majority of civil litigation attorneys work in the private sector, some work for the government. Most government litigators work in criminal law as prosecutors and district attorneys. However, civil litigators work for municipalities and several U.S. attorneys’ offices.

Some corporations are large enough that they employ their own litigators. Large banks and other financial institutions do the same, and some insurance companies employ their own litigation attorneys as well. Companies with a large staff of attorneys may have several working on a case and one or more senior attorneys supervising them.

Duties Of A Civil Litigator

When a litigation attorney picks up a new case, he or she starts with some investigative work. From collecting documents such as witness statements to collecting medical records or necessary evidence to strengthen the case, the attorney and legal staff work hard to find all relevant details. Once the details are in place, civil litigators contact the legal representative of the other party and try to reach a settlement. If an agreeable settlement is reached before a lawsuit is filed, this saves both sides a considerable amount of money.

If a settlement cannot be reached before a lawsuit is filed, the litigator drafts necessary motions and pleadings to file with the court. A summons will be issued, and the defendant’s attorney must respond. An attorney may file additional motions when necessary. For example, a change of venue may be requested if the attorney feels that it would benefit the case and has a legitimate reason for the request.

The discovery phase happens next, and the litigators from each side exchange important information related to the case. This usually involves the exchange of documents. If there is physical evidence related to the case, they view it. There may be additional filings during this phase. Next, the attorneys prepare for trial. Pretrial conferences, depositions and proceedings take place.

In most cases, a settlement is reached after the pretrial stage. The court does not want to spend money on a trial, and businesses or individuals usually do not want the expense of a trial. If a settlement is not reached, the trial process is hectic. Attorneys work hard around the clock to build the best defense and predict any arguments from the other side to form solid responses. They may have to work with experts in a variety of fields to help strengthen the case, and they must continually examine the details of the case.

When the verdict is reached after all trial dates are completed, there may be an appeal process. If a litigator who was expecting to win loses, he or she typically files an appeal. Any issues that were not properly addressed during the trial must be highlighted. The attorney often rethinks strategies and finds additional ways to strengthen the point or points that were supposed to produce a better outcome. Some critical cases require the help of experts. If a litigation attorney who works for a corporation or other large business feels that the appeals process is out of his or her league, experts may be called in. Appellate litigators with experience in a specific area of law can usually help strengthen the appeal for a more favorable outcome.

Karl Heideck’s Tips For Success

Karl Heideck has always had a desire to see others succeed. He released a guide for new or aspiring litigation attorneys to reach their goals. In the guide, he emphasized the importance of making connections and being kind, humble and honest. He says that making connections and treating them as valuable treasures will be helpful along the way. Successful civil litigators are known for being respectful and helpful to others. Mr. Heideck also says that asking questions is important. This is how most litigation attorneys build their knowledge and success faster. He says that choosing a specialty should always require a great deal of thought, and putting a lot of effort into getting an ideal first associate’s position is also crucial.

For more information, follow Karl Heideck on Twitter.

Who Is Karl Heideck?

Karl Heideck
Who is Karl Heideck?

Karl Heideck is a talented and persistent attorney who specializes in compliance and risk management. He serves the greater Philadelphia area and has experience as a successful litigator.

Mr. Heideck is listed with Hire Council and has been a member since 2015. He provides services such as risk management advising and compliance consulting. His litigation areas of expertise go beyond these to include product liability, corporate law, employment proceedings and commercial litigation. In addition to being a dedicated litigator, adviser and consultant, Mr. Heideck is a talented writer who is devoted to his blog. The purpose of his blog is to explain legal news and changes to the public and especially to Pennsylvania residents.

Mr. Heideck graduated from Swarthmore College with an undergraduate degree in 2003 and earned a law degree from James E. Beasley School of Law at Temple University in 2009. He has been working in related positions in the Philadelphia area for over 10 years. In addition to being an associate at Conrad O’Brien, he worked with Pepper Hamilton LLP. His experiences gave him the skills he uses today to help his clients solve complex legal matters. He was exposed to all steps involved in litigation during his time with Conrad O’Brien.

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

Karl Heideck Explains Philadelphia’s Newest Employment Law

Some of Pennsylvania’s Weirdest Laws, According to Karl Heideck