Unfortunately, many people working today have misconceptions about labor laws and are unsure where to go for help. The federal government has no specific rules regarding overtime for people over the age of 16 and does not offer employees protection from being forced to work more than 40 hours in a week. Pennsylvania has slightly more strict labor laws and regulates the hours worked by anyone under the age of 18. If Pennsylvania labor laws and federal labor laws differ, the stricter of the two laws is the one applied. Employers are required to post labor laws in an area where employees have access to them.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is legal for an employer to require an employee to work overtime. If an employer refuses to work mandatory overtime, he or she can be disciplined and terminated. Healthcare workers are the exception to this rule. To protect patents, healthcare workers such as nurses, technicians and certified nursing assistants may not be forced to work mandatory overtime except in the event of a natural disaster. If a healthcare worker is forced to work overtime due to a disaster, he or she must be given 1 hour to make arrangements to deal with child care and other family issues.
Pennsylvania law requires that a worker's pay for overtime hours must be at least 1.5 times his or her regular pay rate. Some employees, known as exempt employees, do not receive a pay increase for overtime hours worked. Most employees who fall under the exempt status are salaried and are not paid hourly, but there are exceptions to this rule. Many executive and administrative employees are considered exempt for overtime purposes even if they are paid hourly.
Pennsylvania employers are only required to pay an employee overtime rates for any hours WORKED over and above 40 hours. Your employer may pay you your regular wages even if your check is for more than 40 hours. For example, let's assume that your standard work schedule is to work 8 hours a day Monday through Friday. Last week you used a vacation day on Monday. Because work was very busy, you ended up working 8 hours on Saturday. Even though your paycheck is for 48 hours of work in 1 week, your employer does not have to pay you extra for your 8 hours of "overtime" because you did not WORK the 8 hours you got paid for on Monday.
Time you spend on call may or may not entitle you to overtime pay in Pennsylvania. Your employer must pay you for and count as hours worked for overtime purposes any on-call time during which you are required to be at a specific location. Your employer does not have to pay you for any on-call time during which you are allowed to do what you please unless and until you are called to duty. Time you spend on call but free to go wherever and do whatever you desire does not count as hours worked when determining whether or not you are due overtime pay.
Many people living and working in Pennsylvania are surprised to discover that, even when you are working overtime, employers are not obligated to provide you with breaks or meal periods unless you are a minor. If your employer does give you breaks, they must be paid breaks unless they are 20 minutes or longer. To stay competitive when attracting and retaining employees, most companies do provide breaks and meal periods, but they are not required to do so. Although the law does not require your employer to give you a break, your employment or union contract might.