What Laws Govern Employee Wages in Pennsylvania?
In the United States, employees are protected in the workplace by a variety of local, state, and federal laws against discriminatory and fair, and unsafe, employment practices. If you are a Pennsylvania worker you should have at least a basic understanding of the employment law regulations that govern you and your workplace. Specific questions or concerns should be addressed by consulting an experienced Pennsylvania employment law attorney; however, the following is a guide to the most relevant local, state, and federal laws applicable to you and your workplace.
Federal Wage Laws
Most people are familiar with the concept of “minimum wage” standards. What most people do not know is that the federal minimum wage may not apply to you. The Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, is the federal law that sets the federal minimum wage and requires overtime wages to be paid to eligible workers working for a covered employer. As of January, 2016, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour for non-exempt workers. There are a number of important exemptions from the federal minimum wage law, including, but not limited to:
·Executive, administrative, and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools), outside sales employees, and employees in certain computer-related occupations (as defined in DOL regulations);
·Employees of certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments, employees of certain small newspapers, seamen employed on foreign vessels, employees engaged in fishing operations, and employees engaged in newspaper delivery;
·Farmworkers employed by anyone who used no more than 500 “man-days” of farm labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year;
·Casual babysitters and persons employed as companions to the elderly or infirm.
The FLSA also governs overtime pay for non-exempt employees by requiring employers to pay workers overtime wages at the rate of one and one-half the worker’s regular hourly rate for all time worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Some common exemptions from the federal overtime wage requirement include:
·Certain commissioned employees of retail or service establishments; auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers; or parts-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks, or farm implements, who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments primarily engaged in selling these items to ultimate purchasers;
·Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans;
·Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of certain non-metropolitan broadcasting stations;
·Domestic service workers living in the employer’s residence;
·Employees of motion picture theaters; and
State Wage Laws
Along with the federal FLSA regulations, each individual state may also implement its own wage laws. Often, state minimum wage laws require employers to pay workers the same, less, or more per hour than the federal minimum wage. In addition, state wage laws can also provide workers with additional overtime wage protection. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the “Wage Payment and Collection Law” governs the payment of wages. As of 2016, Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is the same as the federal rate -- $7.25 per hour. Pennsylvania’s overtime wage laws are currently more stringent that those found in the FLSA. Pennsylvania law, for instance, does not exempt an employer from overtime pay requirements on the basis that an employee earns a specific salary, as does the FLSA. Likewise, the FLSA exempts computer employees from the overtime pay provisions of the statute; however, Pennsylvania law does not exempt computer employees.
When state and federal wage laws differ, the general rule is that the law that provides an employee with the most benefits is the law that must be followed.
Prevailing Wage Laws
For workers in the construction industry, additional “prevailing wage” laws may also be applicable. Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Labor Compliance also determines prevailing wage rates for the construction industry and enforces the rates and classifications under heavy, highway and building construction projects of $25,000 or more when public funds are involved. Prevailing wage laws may also apply at the local level. In the city of Philadelphia, for example, the Office of Labor Standards requires certain employers to pay prevailing wage rates to employees.