As an employment-at-will jurisdiction, employers in Pennsylvania can require their employees to work mandatory overtime. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, each employer has the discretion to control its scheduling. Employees who refuse overtime hours can receive disciplinary actions, including job termination, a pay-cut or reduced hours. However, in 2008, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation limiting mandatory overtime for the health care industry.
New Health Care Act
In 2008, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act, amending the Pennsylvania statutes. The Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act limits the number of hours that health care employers can require their employees to work.
The act does not limit the exact number of hours they can work, but it limits work beyond an employee's normally scheduled shift. The act does not apply to all health care employees, but it applies to hourly workers involved in direct clinical or patient care services . It applies to non-supervisory employees, but it does not apply to supervisory employees. Under the act, an employer can schedule an employee for more than eight hours in one day, if that employee is normally scheduled to work eight-hour shifts.
Prohibited Acts and Exceptions
According to the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act, an employee has a right to refuse working over 40 hours per week, and her employer cannot retaliate against her for refusing to work overtime. An employer cannot schedule an employee to work "on-call" to circumvent the prohibition on overtime hours. However, the act provides a limited exception for employers with unforeseen emergencies, such as periods following natural disasters or other emergent needs. An employer with short-staffing needs due to scheduling conflicts is not excused from complying with the act. To take advantage of the exception, an employer must first provide notice, consider alternative scheduling arrangements and consider imposing additional hours as a last measure.
Overtime Pay Rules
As clarified in 2004 by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, employers must comply with the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act in addition to the new federal overtime regulations. Pennsylvania's overtime regulations are almost identical to the federal labor regulations requiring employers to pay their nonexempt employees at least time and one-half for work exceeding 40 hours per week. However, although the federal government allows an exception for employees earning more than $100,000 per year, Pennsylvania does not. In Pennsylvania, an employer must pay overtime to all of its employees unless they work in executive, professional or administrative positions and earn at least $455 weekly, but the commonwealth generally requires employers to pay their employees overtime compensation for overtime work.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.