The Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Resources Organization is proudly hosting an Employment Law Seminar on Thursday, November 9, 2017 from 7:30 to 10:00 a.m. at Consol Energy in Southpointe (1000 Consol Energy Drive, Canonsburg.) The focus of this seminar will be wage and hour laws and general compliance. To register, please visit www.swpahro.com
Roseanne Saunders, J.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP will address the role of HR audits in supporting compliance initiatives. Karen Welton from the U.S. Department of Labor will address the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
My presentation will cover an overview of Pennsylvania Wage and Hour Laws. One area of particular focus will be Pennsylvania's Wage Payment Collection Law (WPCL), and the common misconceptions with respect to what the WPCL does and not require with respect to paid time off.
Pennsylvania employers' obligations with respect to paying minimum wage and overtime are set forth under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, along with the Regulations which implement each of these statutes. When the federal and state laws are in conflict, the law more advantageous to the employee is applied. Of course, employers are also entitled to pay employees more than minimum wage, subject to any parameters agreed to between employer and employee in individual contracts or collective bargaining agreements.
Importantly, neither the federal Fair Labor Standards Act nor the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act include an entitlement to paid time off, or payment in lieu of unused time. In fact, there is no general law, at the federal or state level, that compels employers to provide these benefits. There are, however, specific statutes applicable in specific situations that entitle employees to leave, such as the sick leave requirement applicable to certain employees under the Pennsylvania Public School Code.
In the search for a more general entitlement to paid time off, employers and employees often mistakenly look to the WPCL, since fringe benefits are explicitly discussed in that statute. It is a common misconception that the WPCL, in and of itself, affords employees the right to wages and benefits. In reality, the WPCL does not set the amount of wages to be paid, nor does it create an entitlement to fringe benefits, including paid time off. Rather, the WPCL serves as an enforcement mechanism by which current and former employees may compel employers to fulfill the obligations imposed by other laws and/or by the employer's own voluntarily entered employment contracts or policies, with respect to wages and benefits.
Several key points should be noted:
(1) Employees are only entitled to paid time off if an employment contract, policy or statute allows for the same.
(2) If an employee is entitled to paid time off by contract, policy or statute, AND the contract, policy or statute does not specifically state that paid time off does not accrue, then it will continually accrue over the course of employment.
(3) The employer will be obligated to pay for all accrued paid time off at the time of separation from employment, regardless of the reason for the separation, unless the contract, policy or statute prohibits or limits payment. The prohibition can be broad ("Employees will not be paid for any accrued paid time off at the time of separation from employment"), or limited ("Employees will not be paid for accrued paid time off in the event of termination for willful misconduct or resignation without the required advance notice.")
(4) Unless otherwise prohibited by statute, an employer can agree by contract or policy to be to be more generous in paying employees for accrued paid time off. For example, an employer can agree to allow employees the option of receiving payment for all or a potion of their accrued unused paid time off at the end ofthe accrual year.
(5) An employer may also agree in a severance agreement to pay an employee for accrued paid time off, even if the employee would not otherwise be entitled.
(6) Any payment to which an employee is entitled for paid time off must be made in the next regularly scheduled pay day.
The general mechanism available to an employee or former employee to enforce the employer's obligation to pay for accrued time off is Pennsylvania's Wage Payment and Collection Law. Other specific sources of authority, such as local ordinances or municipal codes, may also provide means of enforcement.
This event is sponsored by TJS Insurance Group
This article is written by Rachel K. Lozosky, Esquire, Partner at Peacock Keller & Ecker, LLP
For more information, be sure to join us for our Employment Law Seminar on November 9! Please click here to register.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be, and must not be taken as, legal advice, nor does it create an attorney client relationship between the author or the firm of Peacock Keller, or TJS Insurance Group and any reader.