Pennsylvania Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws as they apply to the state of Pennsylvania

A Summary of Pennsylvania Whistleblower Laws

Pennsylvania is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Pennsylvania Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Pennsylvania

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to file a workers’ compensation claim, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, Pennsylvania protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Refusing to commit perjury.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Performing legal duties.
  • Filing a claim for unemployment benefits.
  • Serving on a jury.
  • Refusing to take a drug test or lie detector test.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Pennsylvania

Whistleblower Act in Pennsylvania

Employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten, alter terms of employment, or in any way retaliate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting in good faith or intending to report to the employer or appropriate authority a wrongdoing, waste by a public body, or waste by any other employer.
  • Receiving a request from an appropriate authority to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry held by the authority or court action.

43 Pa. Stat. § 1423.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators

No person is allowed to discharge, discipline, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Refusing to operate a motor vehicle which violates safety laws.
  • Filing a complaint concerning a violation of commercial motor vehicle safety rule.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding related to commercial motor vehicle safety rule.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding related to commercial motor vehicle safety rule.
  • The employee’s reasonable fear of injury to himself or the public due to the unsafe condition of a motor vehicle.

In case of a vehicle that is in violation of safety laws or a situation where the employee fears injury to himself or the public, the employee is required to notify the employer of the unsafe situation. If the employee is unable to obtain correction of the unsafe situation after notifying the employer, he or she will be eligible for protection under this statute.

43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1431.

Construction Workers

It is unlawful for an employer to take any adverse action against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute.
  • Filing a complaint or informing another person of the employer’s non-compliance with this act.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to wrongfully classify employees as independent contractors by demanding or requiring an employee to enter into an agreement. 43 Pa. Stat. § 933.10.

Abuse of Older Adults

No person or employer is allowed to discipline or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Reporting to an agency the need for protection by an older adult.
  • Co-operating with an agency that provides protective services.
  • Testifying in an administrative or judicial proceeding under this statute.

35 Pa. Stat. § 10225.302.

Discrimination

It is unlawful for an employer, individual, or organization to in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices that are forbidden under this statute.
  • Making a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or assisting in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this statute.

43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 955(d).

Hazardous Substances

Employers are not allowed to discharge, discipline, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Assisting the Department of Labor and Industry in an inspection.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right under the Pennsylvania’s Worker and Community Right-to-Know Act.
  • Requesting information or refusing to work for reasons stated under the Pennsylvania’s Worker and Community Right-to-Know Act.

The Pennsylvania’s Worker and Community Right-to-Know Act requires employers to provide their employees with information about hazardous substances that may be used in the workplace.

35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 7313.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare facilities are not allowed to discharge, dismiss, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for refusing to work overtime. 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 932.3.

Smoke-Free Workplace

No person is allowed to discharge, refuse to hire, or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for exercising a right under this statute. Under this statute, everyone has a right to a smoke-free environment. 35 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 637.7.

Road Closings

Employers are not allowed to discipline or terminate an employee in retaliation for failing to report to work due to the closure of roads at the employee’s county of residence or the county where the workplace is located as a result of a state of emergency declared by the governor. 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 1482.

Minimum Wage Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for testifying or intending to testify in an investigation under this act. 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 333.112(a).

Minors

Employers are not allowed to retaliate against a minor for refusing to work more than 44 hours a week during school vacation. 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 40.3.

Public Works Contractor

Public work contractors and subcontractors are not allowed to discharge, threaten, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Participating in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry under this statute.
  • Reporting or making a complaint regarding a violation of this statute to a public work contractor, subcontractor, or governmental authority.

43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 167.3.

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. 43 Pa. Stat. § 336.8(a).

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Pennsylvania

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation lawsuits should be filed in the appropriate court within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Public Works Contractor

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed in the appropriate court within 180 days of the retaliation.

Whistleblower Act

Lawsuits under this act should be filed in the appropriate court within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Hazardous Substances

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Road Closings

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed in the appropriate court within 90 days of the retaliatory action.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Pennsylvania

To file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, call 717-787-3806.

To file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, click here.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Pennsylvania

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits and seniority rights.
  • Lost wages.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Whistleblower Act

Employers who violate this statute may be liable for a civil fine not exceeding $10,000. Additionally, they may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement.
  • Payment of back wages.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Actual damages.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees and witness fees.

Abuse of Older Adults

Persons found guilty of violating this statute may be liable to the aggrieved individual for treble compensatory damages, compensatory and punitive damages, or $5,000, whichever is greater.

Hazardous Substances

Employers who violate this statute may be liable for a civil penalty ranging from $500 to $10,000 per violation. Uncorrected violations will incur a civil penalty not exceeding $5,000 per day for each violation.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare facilities that violate this statute may be liable for an administrative fine ranging from $100 to $1000.

Minimum Wage Act

Employers who violate this act may be liable for a fine ranging from $500 to $1000. In case the employer fails to pay the fine, he or she may be imprisoned for 10 to 90 days.

Public Works Contractor

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement.
  • Payment of three times the amount of the employee’s wages and fringe benefits as restitution, calculated from the date of the retaliation.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Any equitable relief deemed appropriate by a court.

Road Closings

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement.
  • Lost wages and benefits.
  • Costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Wage Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable for a fine ranging from $50 to $200. In case the employer fails to pay the fine, he or she may be imprisoned for 30 to 60 days. Uncorrected violations will be considered as separate offenses for each day that they remain uncorrected.

More Pennsylvania Laws

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