ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, government programs and services, and public accommodations such as restaurants or hotels. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered by the ADA and are required to treat people with disabilities fairly. When an individual is otherwise qualified for the job, the ADA requires employers to work with the employee to provide a reasonable accommodation at the employee’s request. You may find out more information or file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which enforces the state disability discrimination law, here. You may also learn more and file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division here.
AFL-CIO: The AFL-CIO is the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. It is an association of labor unions that collectively represent over 12 million workers. It supports the work of the unions, and provides information and instructions for workers who want to form or join a union. More information is available on the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO website.
Discrimination: Pennsylvania law prohibits treating people differently because of certain characteristics, including: race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, non-job related handicap or disability, or the use of a guide or support animal because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of any individual or independent contractor. In the context of the workplace, an employer may not discriminate when it takes any action regarding the terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, demotion, pay raises or reductions, or promotion. Sexual harassment is one common form of discrimination, and it is illegal to create a hostile work environment or require an employee to engage in flirting or sexual activity as a condition of their job or promotion. You cannot be fired, disciplined, have your pay reduced, or your hours cut because you report discrimination. You can read the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which bars discrimination, here.
Employee versus Independent Contractor status: The distinction between an employee and an independent contractor can be complicated and depends on your particular situation. In general, workers in Pennsylvania are classified as employees unless they are free to determine how and when to do the work, and have their own trade, occupation, profession or business. Employers must pay taxes for their employees, but not for contractors; independent contractors must pay their own share. Employees enjoy other benefits, such as a regular payday, unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance, and various legal protections that are not available to contractors. Many employees are incorrectly classified as contractors, which is against the law. It is a criminal offense to misclassify construction workers in Pennsylvania. Find out more information here and here.
FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to provide you with unpaid time off to take care of yourself, a sick family member, for pregnancy, or the birth or adoption of a child. It guarantees that you will receive the same job when you return to work, or a nearly identical one. The FMLA covers any employer with 50 or more employees for at least 20 work weeks. To be covered, an employee must have worked at the job for at least 12 months. If you are eligible, you may take up to 12 weeks off for your own illness, your parent, spouse, or child’s illness, or for pregnancy and family bonding. You can find out more information here. You may file a complaint with your local U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division office.
Gig Economy: The “gig economy” is a term used to refer to the rapid growth of temporary or contingent jobs, where businesses use independent contractors for short-term work. It can also refer to other methods people use to supplement their income, such as renting out a room in their home on a temporary basis through a web platform. When you order a ride sharing service or grocery delivery through an application on your phone, you are participating in the gig economy through a platform. Many workers have accepted positions (or gigs) with ride sharing companies as full-time drivers or to supplement their income as a second or third job.
Labor Trafficking: Labor trafficking occurs when a person is made to work through force, threat, or coercion. Sex trafficking, where people are forced into prostitution or other forms of the sex trade, is one form but trafficking spans many industries and effects men, women, and children. Traffickers can use debt, threat of legal process (such as calling immigration services), physical abuse or threats, and other means to make people work against their will. If you need assistance, please contact us at: email@example.com and contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline. You can also call the Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Human trafficking is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania pursuant to 18 P.S. §§ 3001-3072.
Labor Union: A labor union is an association of workers, often in a trade or profession, formed to collectively bargain with employers. Unions provide the benefit of requiring employers to negotiate with workers as a whole regarding their terms and conditions of employment. Typically, workers in a union enjoy better pay and benefits than non-union workers. Employers benefit from unions by having lower turnover and more experienced workers. See the History of the Labor Movement section of our website for more information.
Minimum Wage: Federal law requires you to be paid at least $7.25 per hour worked. If you are a tipped employee who receives more than $30 per month in tips, then your employer is required to pay you $2.83 per hour. However, if you do not make enough tips to equal minimum wage, your employer must pay you the difference. If you have questions about minimum wage or would like to file a complaint, you can contact the Department of Labor & Industry here. You may also contact the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division here.
Overtime (OT): For most employees, for every hour you work in a week after 40, you must be paid 1.5 times your normal pay. For example, if you make $10 per hour and work 50 hours, you must be paid at least $550 ($400 for 40 hours at $10/hour and $150 for 10 hours at $15/hour). If you would like to file a complaint regarding unpaid overtime, please refer to the complaint links in the minimum wage entry. Overtime is governed by statute, 43 P.S. §§ 260.1-260.45.
Paid Sick Leave: In Philadelphia, businesses with 10 or more employees must provide you with paid sick leave. Smaller businesses must provide unpaid time off. You can use this time to take care of yourself or a sick family member, from grandparents to grandchildren. For every 40 hours you work, you earn 1 hour of sick time, up to 40 hours of paid leave. You can view the ordinance here.
Retaliation: It is illegal for an employer to retaliate, or threaten to retaliate, when you discuss workplace conditions or file a complaint. Retaliation can take the form of firing, demotion, reduced pay, reduced hours, or other negative consequences at work. If you have a question about retaliation or asserting your rights, you may contact the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission here.
Tips: Gratuities received directly from customers. Gratuities count as wages as long as your employer does not take any portion of them. Your employer may pay you $2.83 per hour if you receive more than $30 in tips per month. If you make less than minimum wage, however, then your employer must make up the difference by increasing your hourly rate. For more information, click here.
Unemployment Compensation: If you lose your job and are willing and able to work, you may be entitled to unemployment assistance while looking for work. Unemployment compensation is a complicated area, and each situation is different. If you have questions, you should read the frequently asked questions at the Office of Unemployment Compensation before filing a claim.
Wages: Pay for work, including gratuities if you are a tipped employee, regardless of whether determined by time, task, piece, commission, or other method of calculation. It may include benefits. You are entitled to at least $7.25 per hour worked. 43 P.S. §§ 260.1-260.45.
Workers’ Compensation: If you are injured on the job, workers’ compensation may provide you with cash or medical services. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Workers’ Compensation website.
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Workers who believe that their rights have been violated in their workplace are encouraged to email the Fair Labor Section at firstname.lastname@example.org or file a complaint online.