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Labor Law Compliance 
& COVID-19 FAQs

As of: March 26, 2020

EMPLOYEES

 Accordion ‭[1]‬

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I was laid off related to COVID-19 and have not received my last paycheck. What should I do?

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Pennsylvania law requires that employers pay wages on regularly scheduled pay dates designated in advance by the employer. If your regular payday has passed without payment, contact the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Bureau of Labor Law Compliance at 1-800-565-0665, any of our district office numbers, or by emailing the bureau at RA-LI-SLMR-LLC@pa.gov

I earn an hourly wage and typically work 40 hours per week, but because of COVID-19 I only worked 20 hours. How many hours will I be paid for?

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​Generally, Pennsylvania law requires that employees be paid for all hours worked. It does not require employers who are unable to provide work to non-exempt employees to pay them for hours the employee would have worked otherwise. If your hours have been reduced because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment Compensation.

 If you are an overtime exempt salaried employee, then you must receive your full salary in any week for which you perform any work, with very limited exceptions.

A medical professional or public official directed me to quarantine or self-isolate because of exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19. What are my employer's obligations to me?

L&I encourages employers to be accommodating and flexible with workers. Employers may offer alternative work arrangements, such as teleworking and additional paid time off to employees but are not under legal obligation to do so.

If you are unable to work because of exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers' Compensation benefits.

How many hours per day or per week can an employee work?

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The PA Minimum Wage Act does not limit the number of hours that an employee over the age of 18 can be required to work.

Can my employer require me to perform work outside of my job description? 

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PA law does not limit the types of work employees over the age of 18 can perform, though a collective bargaining agreement, or union, could have an impact. Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement should consult with their union with further questions. 

If I volunteer to a public agency, am I entitled to compensation?

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Under both federal and state law, employees who volunteer their services to a public agency in an emergency capacity are not considered employees. Please contact the U.S. Department of Labor with further questions.

I am employed by a private, non-profit organization. If I volunteer with the same private, non-profit organization, am I entitled to compensation?

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If you volunteer with a private, non-profit organization at which you are also an employee and you 1) provide services that are not the same or similar to your typical job duties and 2) those services are not performed during your typical working hours, you may be entitled to compensation.

Can my employer encourage or require me to telework (work from an alternative location such as home) a strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19?

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Yes, your employer may encourage or require you to telework.

Can my employer change my hourly rate of pay if I work from home?

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Your employer can change employee pay as long as they follow the PA Minimum Wage Act. However, employers in Pennsylvania are required to notify employees of their rate of pay prior to their date of hire and inform employees in advance of any changes.  

If my employer requires me to work at home but I am unable, are they required to pay me?

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Under the PA Minimum Wage Act, employers are generally only obligated to pay their employees for hours actually worked whether at home or on site.

Is my employer required to cover any additional costs that I incur if they require me to work from home (such as internet, computer, additional phone line, increased use of electricity, etc.)?

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No, employers are only required to pay employees for hours worked. Any other benefits could be offered but are not mandatory.

I am a minor. Can I work additional hours?

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The PA Child Labor Act has different limits on the number of hours a minor is permitted to work depending on the minor's age and whether school is in session. School is only considered to be in session if the local school district requires minor students to attend classes at a physical location or to participate in distance learning. If the local school district does not require distance learning, then the minor can work additional hours. Please review the Child Labor Act to obtain specific information on the number of hours a particular minor may work when school is not in session.

If I am experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, can my employer require that I undergo a medical examination before allowing me to return to work?

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The PA Medical Pay Law states that if your employer requires you to undergo a medical examination in order to continue to work, then your employer is responsible for paying for that examination unless another statute requires that examination as a condition for employment.  Furthermore, time spent at a doctor's office waiting for an examination or receiving medical attention at direction of your employer is considered hours work if the examination occurs during your normal working hours. Time spent undergoing a medical examination during a day you are off work is not compensable. If you are a member of a union, your collective bargaining agreement (union contract) may provide direction regarding your rights and requisite medical examinations.

​I don’t think my employer is taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  What can I do?


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On March 19, Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19.  More information on this order, and enforcement, can be found here, or at www.dced.pa.gov.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance for businesses that remain open.  In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.  The OSHA guidance includes technical assistance for businesses to identify hazards and improve safety.

If you believe your employer is not following OSHA standards, you can file a complaint online, or call your local OSHA office.

If I have concerns about my health, do I have to report to work?

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It depends upon whether your work is deemed essential or not and your medical risk.  If you are in a population particularly susceptible to COVID-19 and are directed by a medical professional or government official to quarantine or self-isolate, you may be eligible for UC. You should first work with your employer to use any existing paid leave available.   

Can my employer fire me if I am concerned about COVID-19 and stay home?

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Depending on your situation, your employer may be able to terminate your employment if you do not report to work as required by the employer.  Employment in Pennsylvania is “at-will,” unless you have a contract with your employer, or you are a member of a union with a collective bargaining agreement. If you are a member of a union, contact your union representative.


EMPLOYERS

 Accordion ‭[2]‬

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My business is experiencing a shortage of workers because of COVID-19. Can I ask for "volunteers" to keep operations going?

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​Generally, any covered, nonexempt worker in the employ of a private, for-profit employer must be paid at least the minimum wage and cannot volunteer their services. Pennsylvania law requires employers to pay its employees a minimum of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked and a rate equal to 1.5 times their regular hourly wage for all hours worked over 40.

If you are an educational, charitable, religious, or nonprofit organization where the employer/employee relationship does not in fact exist or where individuals provide labor or services to the organization gratuitously, you may be exempt from the minimum wage and overtime provisions in the law.

My hourly employee worked a partial week because my business closed due to COVID-19. Am I required to pay them for the hours they actually worked or the hours they were scheduled to work?

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​For a non-exempt employee, the PMWA requires that employees be paid for all hours worked. It does not require employers who are unable to provide work to non-exempt employees to pay them for hours the employee would have worked otherwise.

For an exempt employee, generally they must receive their full salary in any week for which they perform any work, with very limited exceptions.

If I direct my salaried, exempt employees to take vacation (or leave bank deductions) or leave without pay during office closures due to COVID-19, will this impact the employee's exempt status?

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There is no prohibition against an employer providing vacation time and later requiring that such vacation time be taken on a specific day(s). A private employer may direct exempt staff to take vacation or debit their leave bank account, whether for a full or partial day's absence, provided the employees receive in payment an amount equal to their guaranteed salary. 

My employee is under medically or governmentally directed self-isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19. What are my obligations to that employee? 

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L&I is encouraging employers to be accommodating and flexible with workers. Employers may offer alternative work arrangements, such as teleworking and additional paid time off to employees. If you are an employer with fewer than 500 employees, your employees may be eligible under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act for paid sick leave and/or expanded Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) because of they have been exposed to, are sick from, are caring for someone who was exposed to or are sick from or their child’s school or child care is closed due to COVID-19. The US Department of Labor administers these programs. To find out more, please visit their website.

If your employee is unable to work because of exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 and there is no paid leave available to them, they may be eligible for unemployment or workers' compensation benefits.

How many hours per day or per week can an employee work?

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The PMWA does not limit the number of hours that an employee over the age of 18 can be required to work.

Can I require an employee to perform work outside of the employee's job description? 

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The PMWA does not limit the types of work employees over the age of 18 can perform, though a collective bargaining agreement, or union, could have an impact. Employers with employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement should consult with the union with further questions. 

May an employer encourage or require employees to telework (i.e., work from an alternative location such as home) as an infection control strategy? 

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Yes, an employer may encourage or require employees to telework. 

Do employers have to pay employees their same hourly rate or salary if they work at home?

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Employers can change employee pay as long as they follow the PMWA. However, under the Wage Payment and Collection Law (WPCL), employers in Pennsylvania are required to notify employees of their rate of pay prior to hiring them and inform employees in advance of any changes.  

In the event an organization bars employees from working from their current place of business and requires them to work at home, will employers have to pay those employees who are unable to work from home?

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Under the PMWA, employers are generally only obligated to pay their employees for hours actually worked whether at home or on site.

Are businesses and other employers required to cover any additional costs that employees may incur if they work from home (such as internet, computer, additional phone line, increased use of electricity, etc.)?

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No, employers are only required to pay employees for hours worked. Any other benefits could be offered but are not mandatory.

Do OSHA's regulations and standards apply to the home office? Are there any other federal or state laws employers need to worry about if employees work from home?

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According to the Pennsylvania Industrial Homework Law, there are limits on employees performing tasks of assembling industrial products at home, but any other questions may have to be referred to OSHA.

In the event an employer brings on temporary employees from a staffing agency to supplement its workforce due to staffing shortages, is the employer required to adhere the wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?

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When two or more employers jointly employ an employee, the employee's hours worked for both of the joint employers during the workweek are aggregated and considered as one employment, including for purposes of calculating whether overtime is due.  Additionally, when joint employment exists, both joint employers are jointly and severally liable for compliance with the PMWA.

Can I have minor employees work additional hours?

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The Child Labor Act has different limits on the number of hours a minor is permitted to work depending on the minor's age and whether school is in session. School is only considered to be in session if the local school district requires minor students to attend classes at a physical location or to participate in distance learning. If the local school district does not require distance learning, then the minor can work additional hours. Please review the Child Labor Act to obtain specific information on the number of hours a particular minor may work when school is not in session.

If my employee is experiencing symptoms associated with the COVID-19, may I require that employee to undergo a medical examination before the employee returns to work?

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The Medical Pay Law states that if an employer requires an employee to undergo a medical examination in order to continue working, then the employer is responsible for paying for that examination unless another statute requires that examination as a condition for employment. Furthermore, time spent at a doctor's office waiting for an examination or receiving medical attention at direction of the employer is considered hours work if the examination occurs during the employee's normal working hours. 43 P.S. § 333.104(a); 34 Pa. Code § 231.1 (definition of hours worked). Therefore, time spent undergoing a medical examination during a day an employee is off work is not compensable.  Employers who employ union employees are also encouraged to review the contract before requiring medical examinations.