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August 07, 2022

Significant updates to Pa.s Minimum Wage Act take effect Aug. 5

Credit: Times Leader, Bill O’Boyle

WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier this week announced that changes to regulations in Pennsylvania’s Minimum Wage Act take take effect today, Friday, Aug. 5, with the goal of protecting wages earned by thousands of workers across the commonwealth and leveling the playing field for employers competing in a tight labor market.

The modernized regulations — approved by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) in March and by Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office shortly after — update how employers pay tipped workers and ensure that salaried employees with fluctuating schedules are appropriately compensated for overtime.

“As a former service industry worker, I have seen firsthand how employees can be taken advantage of due to outdated rules and regulations when it comes to how they are paid,” said Berrier. “Servers, bartenders, hairstylists, nail techs, bellhops and dozens of other tipped-worker positions rely on the generosity of their customers for their livelihood and deserve regulatory protections that ensure these earned wages are theirs to keep. I know that struggle personally, hoping you earn enough money each shift to make ends meet. These updated regulations not only seek to keep tips in the pockets of workers who rightfully earned them, but to also ensure employers are playing by the same, fair rules.”

The final-form regulation covers five primary areas for tipped workers, including:

  • An update to the definition of “tipped employee,” adjusted for inflation since 1977, that increases the amount in tips an employee must receive monthly from $30 to $135 before an employer can reduce an employee’s hourly pay from $7.25 per hour to as low as $2.83 per hour.
  • Alignment with a recent federal regulatory update governing employer tip credits to allow employers to take a tip credit under certain conditions, including that the employee spends at least 80 percent of their time on duties that directly generate tips, commonly known as the 80/20 rule.
  • Alignment with a recent federal regulatory update to allow for tip pooling among employees but in most cases excluding managers, supervisors, and business owners.
  • A prohibition on employers deducting credit card and other non-cash payment processing transaction fees from an employee’s tip left with a credit card or other non-cash method of payment.
  • A requirement for employers to clarify that automatic service charges are not gratuities for tipped employees.

This final-form regulation also updates the definition of “regular rate” for salaried employees whose overtime pay is determined by the fluctuating workweek method, clarifying that for the purpose of calculating overtime the regular rate is based on a 40-hour work week.

It’s important to note that these updates do not change overtime compensation regulations for hourly workers.

This regulatory proposal is part of Gov. Wolf’s broader worker protection agenda, and the administration’s commitment to fighting for workers to have fair wages, paid sick leave, safe workplaces and quality jobs. The governor signed an executive order in October 2021 on behalf of Pennsylvania workers and has repeatedly called on the General Assembly to finally pass legislation that supports workers.

Gov. Wolf urges Senate to pass Inflation Reduction Act

Gov. Tom Wolf this week thanked President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats for introducing the Inflation Reduction Act.

Gov. Wolf gave the following statement urging Congress to act quickly to pass the bill:

“Right now, Pennsylvanians and their families are hurting from inflation. As prices have gone up, paychecks have had to stretch further than ever to cover the higher cost of food, rent, medicine and more. Working families are bearing the brunt of inflation – and that’s why we need the Inflation Reduction Act.

“At a time when our people are hurting, we must take action to help. To do nothing in the face of this pain would be not only a grave mistake – it would be a dereliction of duty. That’s why I’ve reintroduced my plan to put $2000 back in the pockets of Pennsylvanians. It’s also why I support the Inflation Reduction Act.

“The Inflation Reduction Act will take pressure off of working families and provide more stability for our economy, right now. It also looks ahead – providing a better future for our children and our world by fighting the climate crisis and lowering energy costs.

“This would be the single largest climate investment in U.S. history. Reports have shown that our world has very little time left to act to reduce the damage of climate change. As we approach a crucial tipping point for our world, the Inflation Reduction Act will put America on the path to reduce emissions by nearly 40% by 2030 at the same time that it will add clean energy jobs and improve American energy security. The time to act to protect American lives, homes and communities from climate change is now.

“A vote for the Inflation Reduction Act is a vote to lower costs for the American family. It will directly counter inflation by lowering prescription drug costs, health insurance premiums, energy costs, and more. I urge Congress to swiftly take up this necessary legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk, because American families need your help.”

Fight continues for $2,000 direct payments to Pennsylvanians

Gov. Tom Wolf this week discussed the reintroduction of the PA Opportunity Program, which would send $2,000 checks directly to Pennsylvanians.

“I first proposed the PA Opportunity Program back in February, but Republican leaders in the General Assembly just wouldn’t get on board with funding it in this year’s budget,” said Gov. Wolf. “However, as I’ve traveled the commonwealth, I’ve heard directly from so many people about how much this program would mean to them and their families. I’m not going to stop fighting until the people of Pennsylvania get the help they need and deserve.”

In February, Gov. Wolf unveiled a $1.7 billion proposal for Pennsylvania’s $2 billion in federal ​American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA​) dollars. While Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have introduced legislation, the Republican-led General Assembly did not appropriate the funding for the program during budget negotiations.

“This year’s budget made major investments in working families across the commonwealth, putting Pennsylvania on a pack to a brighter future, but we still have the funds to make this investment in the people of Pennsylvania right now,” said Gov Wolf. “People need help now, and we can afford to help them. Let’s put this cash back in the pockets of Pennsylvanians, to help cover the higher costs of gas, groceries, and everything else.”

Rep. Meuser introduces EFFECTIVE Act to stem opioid problem facing America

U.S. Rep.Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, and U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-MD, recently introduced the Ensuring the FDA Fully Examines Clinical Trial Impact and Vitalness before Endorsement (EFFECTIVE) Act to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to deny a new drug application for an opioid if it is not clinically superior to other commercially available drugs.

Meuser said he believes the legislation would have a positive effect on Pennsylvanians by establishing specific guidelines which opioid drugs need to be approved under at the FDA and reduce the possibility of some opioid abuse.

The effort would provide further authority to the FDA to review the potential public health impact of every new opioid approval and deny applications for new drugs if they cannot prove their ability to serve as a safer or more effective option for patients. FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf recently spoke of the need for additional legal authority to change the standard used to approve opioids. He advocated for establishing a framework specifically for opioids and those new pharmaceutical drugs need to superior to current market offerings.

Stemming from the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma’s unethical marketing of OxyContin in the 1990s, excessive opioid prescribing and opioid use disorder have continued to wreak havoc in American communities. This epidemic has been exacerbated by a saturation of opioids in the drug market, often approved without sound evidence that the new drugs are improvements to current offerings. While opioids are often prescribed in good faith and can very well help patients manage pain, their addictive properties have led to millions of Americans becoming dependent on the drugs. Last year, over 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses – and over one million Americans have died from overdoses since 1999.

“This legislation would help us avoid past tragic outcomes regarding the efficacy and safety of new drugs before they are on the market and prescribed to consumers,” said Meuser. “Giving the FDA authority to thoroughly vet new medications to make sure they can be prescribed to patients looking for the safe alleviation of pain will hopefully keep them for experiencing unintended and tragic consequences. This bill would ensure only superior and tested medications would make it to our medicine cabinets.”