Comprehensive Modernization of the Minimum Wage
Senate Bill 12 would raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 this year and to $15 over the next six years in annual increments of 50 cents. After the minimum wage reaches $15, it would be adjusted automatically each ensuing year based on the Consumer Price Index. The bill would eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers (now $2.83) and would repeal Pennsylvania’s preemption statute, thereby allowing counties and municipalities to raise the minimum wage in their jurisdictions above the statewide rate. Further, the bill would enhance the powers of the Secretary of Labor & Industry to enforce the Minimum Wage Act and would increase the penalties for violators of the Act.
Proof of Workers’ Compensation
Senate Bill 215 would require contractors to provide proof of workers’ compensation coverage to the Office of the Attorney General as part of the registration process under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. This would ensure that contractors are held accountable for their employees’ workers’ compensation benefits.
Pennsylvania law now requires certain employers to insure or self-insure the workers’ compensation liability of their employees, but some employers do not adhere to this law.
Eliminating Credit Card Deductions from Tips
Senate Bill 331 would amend Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage Act to prohibit employers from deducting business costs from gratuities paid to employees. Specifically, it would require any employer who permits tipping by credit card to pay their employees the full amount of the tip indicated on the credit card slip. No deductions may be made for fees or costs the credit card company may charge the employer.
Strengthening the Wage Payment and Collection Law
Senate Bill 335 would amend Pennsylvania’s Wage Payment and Collection Law to help enforce the law and improve employer adherence to the law as to payment of employee wages. It would establish a self-funded means of increasing enforcement of and reporting on this law by the PA Department of Labor and Industry.
Under the current Wage Payment and Collection Law, employees who are underpaid may have difficulty collecting the wages they are owed by their employers. Reporting violators without risking retaliation, pursuing back-owed wages, and receiving payment for damages are fruitless endeavors for most employees in Pennsylvania. Employers now have little incentive to pay the correct amount of wages to their workers because the penalties for violating this law are outdated and fail to deter initial or repeat offenses. Further, the Department of Labor and Industry does not always proactively investigate employers, especially within high-violation industries, nor does it collect and report data on violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Law.
Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax
Senate Bill 253 would amend the Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption law relating to the calculation of income and the determination of “need.” This legislation would address the financial burden affecting disabled American veterans who are unable to work due to injuries they incurred while serving in the military.
Many disabled veterans live on fixed incomes that are failing to keep pace with increases in their property tax assessments. This legislation would exempt 50 percent of a disabled veteran’s social security and railroad retirement benefits from the income calculation used to determine eligibility for the real estate tax exemption. The new method of calculating income would mirror the method used in accordance with the Senior Citizen Property Tax and Rent Rebate Act.
This legislation seeks to provide property tax exemption to an expanded population of veterans who have incurred significant and permanent disability as a result of their military service, and now suffer from financial hardship.
State Civil Service Hiring Preference for People with Disabilities
Senate Bill 365 would amend Title 71 of the PA Consolidated Statutes regarding State Government to provide people with disabilities additional points on the State Civil Service Exam.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated one in 10 Pennsylvanians have some level of disability. The PA Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis reports that the unemployment rate for disabled Pennsylvanians in October 2018 was 8.4 percent, compared to the overall statewide unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. Furthermore, only about 36 percent of working-age people with disabilities were in the labor force at that time.
People with disabilities offer a wide variety of skills and abilities to employers. This legislation would provide the Commonwealth with the opportunity to become a leader in disability hiring and set the example for all employers in Pennsylvania.
Signed into Law
Schools to Workforce Pipeline Act
Senator’s Tartaglione’s Act 76 of 2019, also known as the Schools to Workforce Pipeline Act, (first introduced as Senate Bill 615) established the Schools to Work Program within the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). The program incentivizes new pre-apprenticeship programs among schools, employers, organizations, and/or associations that create employment and training career paths for students. These two-and-a-half-year programs help up-skill young people into stable, well-paying jobs in their communities and help employers fill vacancies that, if left unfilled, decrease productivity and profitability.
In May 2021, PDE announced more than $2.8 million in grants to 12 partnerships through the program, including nearly $1.2 million to five Philadelphia partnerships. These partnerships offer opportunities in information technology, advanced manufacturing, early childhood education, and the building trades.
Senate Bill 994 was a compromise bill to extend unemployment benefits and make changes that helped shore up the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
The provisions of the bill were eventually amended into another bill, Senate Bill 1030 , which was signed into law as Act 6 of 2011. Unemployment compensation is not just a lifeline for laid-off workers and their families. Unemployment compensation has also been critical in shoring up the economy, preserving small businesses and the communities they serve. During the recession, more than $15 billion in benefits were spent on food, mortgages, utilities and doctor bills. “
Act 6 also included a Tartaglione proposal authorizing “shared-work” programs, through which employers would be able to reduce work hours of employees as an alternative to layoffs and allow affected employees to receive prorated unemployment compensation for lost wages.
In 2011, Senator Tartaglione ushered a measure through the State Senate that ensured firefighters and their families would be protected financially if they contract cancer on the job.
Act 46 of 2011 specifically added cancer to the Workers’ Compensation Act as a work-related illness if no other obvious cause for the disease is present and amended the law to include cancer suffered by firefighters and caused by a group of known carcinogens recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Currently, state law covers professional and volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania that have been on the job for more than four years and have been exposed to known carcinogens. The presumption of job-related cancer may be rebutted by evidence of cancer-causing activity – such as smoking — during a firefighter’s non-duty hours.