As of July, 2009, Pennsylvania enacted a Mini-COBRA, designed to supplement the federal COBRA. Mini-COBRA is modeled after federal COBRA law, but allows employees of small businesses (two to 19 employees) who receive health insurance from their employer the right to purchase continuation health insurance after their employment ends. Eligible employees and dependents can purchase health insurance for nine months after the end of their employment.
Prior to the Mini-COBRA, only employees working for companies that employed more than 20 people were eligible for COBRA benefits.
At Will Employment
Pennsylvania is an "at will" employment state. As such, at-will employees can be terminated for any reason. The only exception is for employees who are covered by a contract or union agreement governing the terms of employment. Employees who are covered by an employment contract can usually only be terminated for the reasons set out in the contract. At-will employment also protects the employee's right to resign.
Unlawful terminations violate legal protections, including discrimination or harassment, whistleblower protections, absence to serve on a jury, retaliation for asserting legal rights or violations of employment or union contracts. In such cases a fired employee could potentially file a wrongful termination claim.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law regarding employee wages and hours worked, including overtime hours and wages. Under the FLSA, some workers can be exempted from overtime pay. However, those workers must fit the criteria the FLSA sets out for exemption. Pennsylvania's laws also apply to employment subject to the FLSA. In cases where both the FLSA and state law apply, the law setting the higher standards must be observed.
More information on how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to overtime can be found here.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act requiring that covered employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees. FMLA applies only in the following instances: for the birth and care of the employee's newborn child; to care for a child after adoption or foster care placement; to care for the employee's spouse, child or parent who is suffering from a serious health condition; or for a serious health condition that affects the employee's own ability to work.
Pennsylvania employees are eligible for FMLA coverage if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months (not necessarily consecutive months) and if a minimum of 50 employees are employed by the same employer within 75 miles.
Covered employers are those who employ more than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite and have at least 50 employees who work 20 or more work-weeks in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year. Public agencies are covered by the FMLA regardless of the number of employees.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law enacted to ensure that employees work in an environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is part of the United States Code, Title 29, Chapter 15.
Federal laws also protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination, including race, age, disability and pregnancy discrimination.
Employees who feel their rights have been violated may have the opportunity to bring their complaint before the courts.