Pennsylvania employers may find it hard to keep up with local employment laws as states and municipalities pass legislation to regulate their workplaces. The federal congress has been largely deadlocked and unable to sign proposed bills into law, just as the Pennsylvania legislature and governor have not been able to enact a significant new workplace legislation. Local lawmakers have stepped in to fill the gaps. However, due to many factors such as size, the results are different for each city, leaving companies with employees located throughout the state to deal with a multitude of local workplace laws.
Philadelphia is a unique case in Pennsylvania, and a nationwide leader in strengthening workplace regulations. The size makes it a city of the first class and it has the authority to enact broad laws protecting workers. Under the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplace Ordinance, Philadelphia requires employers with 10 or more employees to provide up to one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, or approximately five days a year. It also has a “Ban the Box” ordinance, which prohibits employers from including questions about criminal records on job applications or asking employees at any time about criminal accusations or arrests that did not result in a conviction. Criminal background checks may only be conducted after a conditional offer of employment has been made. The Wage Theft Ordinance enables covered employees and organizations to pursue wage claims through a city wage theft coordinator.
The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance of 1974 prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on enumerated characteristics. The law has been expanded and amended several times to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to protect victims of domestic/sexual violence. The ordinance also covers accommodations for pregnancy more stringently than the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Further, it bans employer procurement and use of employee credit information in hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining decisions. A December 2016 amendment also bans employers from asking prospective employees about their wage history or to use salary history as a basis for determining compensation.
The most recent amendment to the Fair Practices Ordinance gives authority to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to shut down businesses for a specified period if they are found to have repeated severe violations without any effective attempt at remediation. Pennsylvania’s Home Rule Charter Law restricts the abilities of the state’s smaller municipalities to enact workplace regulations. However, many cities and municipalities, including Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Reading, Scranton, and others have enacted ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Several also have Ban the Box ordinances that apply only to applications for municipal jobs, but do not affect private employers.
In August 2015, Pittsburgh enacted the Paid Sick Days Act, which has since come under fire. It was first struck down by the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, and is now a matter before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The case is still pending and will set a legal precedent for other municipalities in the state. Local employment regulations have provoked a backlash at the state level, resulting in legislation such as the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, which states that local ordinances may not supersede state law.
MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser is well versed in the complexities of Pennsylvania employment law and can provide you with highly skilled representation. Call 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.