What Are My Rights as an Employee in Pennsylvania?

As an employee in Pennsylvania, your employment rights are protected at both the federal and the state level. These rights are very specific, and there is more than one way to enforce them. 

Although employment rights can be complex and challenging to comprehend, it is important that you gain at least a rudimentary understanding of them so that you will know when someone is in violation.

Your Rights as an Employee

As an employee, you enjoy the following rights:

  • Freedom from discrimination based on your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and other characteristics.
  • Freedom from retaliation for exercising your legal rights. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who try to enforce their legal rights.
  • A 30-minute meal period if you work more than five consecutive hours. Additional breaks are required for minors (under 18 years of age).
  • At least the federal minimum wage plus 150% of your regular pay for overtime work (over 40 hours per week).
  • Unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, with no break in your health insurance coverage.
  • Privacy concerning your personal information and belongings. Your employer cannot open your company locker without good reason, for example.
  • Unemployment compensation if you lose your job through no fault of your own.
  • Workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer injury or illness as a direct result of your employment.
  • A safe workplace, free from known hazards.
  • A smoke-free workplace (under the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act).
  • Reasonable accommodation for disabilities.
  • Equal pay for equal work (under the Equal Pay Act, which forbids gender discrimination).
  • Pregnancy and maternity leave.
  • The right to report unsafe working conditions.
  • The right to leave for voting, military duty, and jury duty without retaliation from your employer.

As a Pennsylvania employee, you enjoy many rights in addition to these. 

Pennsylvania’s Paid Sick Leave Problem

Disturbingly, there is no statewide right to paid sick leave, although certain localities such as Allegheny County, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh require employers to offer such benefits. 

The lack of paid sick leave arguably contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania during 2020-2021, because low-paid healthcare workers, particularly nursing home staff, would come to work sick (and spread COVID-19 to patients) rather than stay home without pay.

The Sources of Your Employment Rights

As an employee, your legal rights come from the below-described sources:

Federal Statutes

The following federal statutes form the background of employee rights in every state:

These rights apply throughout the United States, and you can enforce them in federal courts.

Pennsylvania State Statutes

The following Pennsylvania statutes grant you rights under state law. Some of these rights are identical to your federal rights, while a few go beyond the scope of your federal rights:

  • The Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, which may set different wage standards than the FLSA;
  • The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which addresses discrimination in employment;
  • The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, governing compensation for work-related injuries and illnesses; and
  • The Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act, regulating smoking in workplaces.

You can enforce these claims in state court and, under limited circumstances, in federal court.

Agency Regulations

Employees enjoy rights that are created and enforced by various federal and state agencies, including: 

  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL);
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC);
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); and
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Employees can seek enforcement of their rights with the administrative agencies themselves and, under certain circumstances, in court.

Courtroom Precedents

The application of a statute or regulation to a particular case is not always clear without interpretation. Court decisions from the federal courts and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania interpret statutes and regulations. You can cite these interpretations as authority in court cases.

Collective Bargaining Agreements

If you are a member of a labor union, collective bargaining agreements can affect your employment rights.

Company Policies and Employment Contracts

Your employer can create employment rights in your favor, in two ways:

  • By company policy (as set out in your company handbook, for example); and
  • By employment contract.

These rights are created by your employer or bargained for between you and your employer, and they can go beyond the rights guaranteed by state and federal law. 

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Employment Lawyer To Help You Fight Back

Your employer might be more powerful than you are, but that’s no reason why you need to put up with the violation of your rights under federal or state law. Knowledge is power, and an experienced employment lawyer should know not only what your rights are, but also how to effectively enforce them. Don’t wait to enforce your rights-–contact an experienced Pennsylvania employment lawyer at your earliest convenience.

If you’ve been injured in a personal injury, please contact Marzzacco Niven & Associates at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:

Harrisburg Law Office
945 East Park Drive, Suite 103 Harrisburg, PA 17111
(717) 231-1640

York Law Office
2550 Kingston Road, Suite 210A York, PA 17401
(717) 995-8998

Wyomissing Law Office
833 N. Park Road, Suite 103, Room A Wyomissing, PA 19610
(717) 388-2325

Chambersburg Law Office
79 St. Paul Drive, Suite 1 Chambersburg, PA 17201
(717) 388-2378

Carlisle Law Office
354 Alexander Springs Road Carlisle, PA 17015
(717) 995-8732

Carbondale Law Office
30 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 101 Carbondale, PA 18407
(717) 995-8810

Lancaster Law Office
2173 Embassy Drive, Ste 123, Lancaster Pa 17603
(717) 616-2954

Lebanon Law Office
937 Willow Street, Suite D Lebanon, PA 17042-1140
(717) 995-8963