AnnaMarie Houlis
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Pennsylvania.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Pennsylvania a right to work state?

Pennsylvania is not a right-to-work state.

"Pennsylvania recognizes and will enforce union contracts calling for union shops (in which new hires must join the union within some specified period of time) and similar union security agreements," according to Business and Labor Resources.

Can you be fired for any reason in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Pennsylvania labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Pennsylvania of which you should be aware.

1. Labor Relations Act

"Pennsylvania has adopted several provisions, known as the Labor Relations Act, to supplement the federal guarantees," according to Business and Labor Resources. "This Act extends to workers not covered by the federal law the right to organize and bargain collectively. It also sets strict criteria for the conduct of union activities. The Act does not cover hospitals, charitable institutions, and nonprofit social clubs. In addition, the Act does not protect the rights of individuals working for their parent or spouse, agricultural laborers and domestic workers. Except for public utility employees and certain workers in the public sector, all Pennsylvania employees have the right to strike."

2. Overtime Pay Law

Pennsylvania labor laws do indeed require employers to pay employees for overtime, unless otherwise exempt, at the rate of one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay — that's for all hours worked beyond the typical 40 hours in a workweek.

3. Minimum Wage

The Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, Act 112 of 2006 (Act) states that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, effective as of July 24, 2009.

"The minimum wage credit for tipped employees will remain at $2.83 per hour," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. "However, an employer will have to make up the difference if the employee’s tips and the $2.83 per hour do not meet the full Pennsylvania minimum wage listed in FAQ 1. The tip credit applies only if an employee received more than $30 in tips during a month. If an employee does not receive more than $30 per month in tips, the employer must pay the regular minimum wage."

That all said, the following exclusions remain:

  • Learners and students
  • Farm laborers
  • Domestic service workers in or about the private home of an employer
  • Newspaper deliverers to the consumer
  • Workers connected with the publication of weekly, semi-weekly or daily newspaper with a circulation of less than 4,000, when the major portion of circulation is in the county where published or in a bordering county
  • Employees in a bona-fide executive, administrative or professional capacity
  • Employees in an educational, charitable, religious or nonprofit organization where no employer-employee relationship exists and service is rendered gratuitously
  • Employment by an establishment which is a public amusement or recreational establishment, organized camp, or religious or nonprofit educational conference center, if (1) it does not operate more than seven months a year, or (2) during the preceding calendar year the average receipts for any six months were not more than 33 and one-third percent for the other six months of the year
  • Golf caddies
  • Switchboard operators employed by an independently owned public telephone company which has no more than 750 stations
  • Employees not subject to Civil Service Laws who hold elective office or are on the personal staff of such an officeholder, are immediate advisers to the officeholder, or are appointed by the officeholder to serve on a policymaking level

What are some resources for Pennsylvania employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Pennsylvania, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.