Skip to main navigation Skip to content
Employment laws that small biz owners must know

Small Business Saturday is this Saturday, Nov. 30. The day helps boost the local economy by supporting hard-working small business owners. It takes a lot of dedication and elbow grease to make a small business profitable and a day dedicated to patronizing such establishments is a way to foster that entrepreneurial spirit.

By definition, small business owners don’t have the resources available to them that large corporations have at their disposal. Legal counseling is one such area where there is a large discrepancy. While corporations have general counsel and legal departments available to advise them, small business owners are often left to their own devices to navigate the vast array of law they must navigate.

Employment law can be particularly confusing, posing many obstacles for even the savviest business owners. The requirements of the laws tend to be very particularized, leading employers to wonder whether those measures apply to them. To help out this Small Business Saturday, here are some key employment laws that small business owners in Pennsylvania should know about.

  • Employment at will – First of all, Pennsylvania provides for at-will employment. Absent a contract, an employee may be fired at any time for any reason or no reason at all. There is no implied good-faith or fair-dealing requirement in at-will employment. However, there are narrow exceptions to at-will employment. Those exceptions are listed below.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Areas covered by the law include recruiting, hiring, termination, promotions, compensation, training, discipline, assignment of duties, performance evaluation and providing benefits.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) – The ADEA prohibits companies with 20 or more employees from discriminating against those 40 or older because of their age. This extends to issues including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments and training.
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA) – If you have at least one employee, you are required to comply with the EPA. It requires equal pay for equal work. The EPA covers all kinds of pay including salary, overtime, bonuses, benefits, paid time off and reimbursement for expenses.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It is designed to keep employees working through reasonable accommodations. This federal statute pertains to employees who may be eligible for workplace accommodations due to a disability. Either the employee is regarded as disabled or has a past record of a disability. Employers are required to engage employees in an interactive process to arrive at a reasonable accommodation for an employee.
  • Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) – The PHRA echoes the federal ADA, extending the coverage to employers with only four or more employees.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Employers with at least 50 employees must adhere to the federal FMLA. The statute protects employees’ jobs while they are out of work. It entitles employees to up to 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave.

We hope this primer on relevant employment laws helps you understand which ones apply to your small business. We also hope that this Small Business Saturday is profitable for your business and launches a successful holiday season.

Back to All News