Understand Pennsylvania Employee Rights and Laws

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Employment laws afford protection to employees at every stage of the employment process, from hire to fire. This legal field includes both federal and state laws. Here are some points to consider if you're an employee in Pennsylvania.

Getting Hired

Help-wanted ads, interviews, and hiring decisions cannot be discriminatory. Employers are not allowed to consider things like race, age, gender, color, pregnancy, religion, or disability when they're interviewing and making hiring decisions. Some interview questions are illegal, such as whether you're pregnant, whether you attend church and where, and whether you suffer from any disabilities.

Learn more about employment discrimination FAQs.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Federal law establishes minimum wage and overtime rules to cover most, but not all, employees and employers. States can also set their own minimum wage and overtime laws, and they sometimes afford greater protection than federal law. Pennsylvania has set minimum wage at the same level as federal guidelines.

Work Environment

Employers must provide a safe work environment for employees. They cannot terminate employees who highlight unsafe working conditions, such as pollutants, faulty equipment, lack of safety devices, exposure, contamination, and similar problems.

Workers' Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a system of insurance that provides replacement income and medical benefits to employees who are injured on the hob or who contract an occupational disease in the course of their employment. In exchange, employees must relinquish the right to sue for personal injuries under state tort law. Workers’ compensation provides qualified, eligible employees with benefits such as medical treatment and partial income replacement. This might include temporary disability payments or compensation for a permanent impairment until the employee can return to work or until he reaches the maximum medical improvement possible. Employers with one or more employees must comply with Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Seasonal and part-time workers are covered, as well as those who are employed by nonprofit corporations and unincorporated businesses.

Time Off

Some types of time off are required by federal law as well as state law. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act protects Pennsylvania workers and the Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Act also provides certain rules. Pennsylvania law does not require employers to give employees time off to vote.


All forms of harassment are unlawful under federal law. Harassment is defined as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on race, sex, color, sexual orientation, religion, age, national origin, retaliation or disability. Conduct rises to the level of harassment when it's severe enough to create a hostile work environment or when a supervisor’s conduct establishes a measurable change in an employee’s status or benefits. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment.


Like many states, Pennsylvania offers “at will” employment. Unless a contract states otherwise, either party may end the employment relationship for almost any or no reason. Employers can't fire employees for unlawful or discriminatory reasons such as those based on age, gender, race, national origin, or disability. They also can't do so because the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim, demanded proper wages or overtime pay, took time off for medical reasons or to care for family, acted as a whistleblower, or did anything else protected by law. State law does not require employers to pay employees for paid vacation or sick pay in final paychecks, nor for unworked time. The only exception to this rule is if the employer’s policies, disclosures or written contracts require otherwise.

Post-Employment Benefits

After employment ends, employees might be eligible for benefits, such as unemployment benefits and COBRA, although very small companies are likely exempt from these rules.

Get Help From a Labor and Employment Attorney

Employment law is a complicated field. If you have questions about your specific work situation, speak with a Pennsylvania employment lawyer.

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