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Executive Order Sets Minimum Wage & Paid Leave for Businesses Receiving Assistance

Governor Tom Wolf has issued an executive order (VIEW HERE) designed to protect workers. The order impacts for-profit employers seeking financial assistance from the Commonwealth. Wolf was joined at a news conference in Pittsburgh on Thursday, October 21st by Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Rep. Jessica Benham and other legislators, workers and labor leaders.

The order directs DCED to verify a business receiving an offer of state financial assistance provides its workers paid sick leave and pays no less than the minimum wage for state employees before making a financial incentive offer. The $13.50 minimum wage for state employees and contractors will reach $15 on July 1, 2024, under an executive order the governor signed in 2018.

The governor also announced that L&I will make publicly available a list of bad actors that violate labor laws, misclassify their workers, owe unemployment compensation back taxes or fail to carry requisite workers’ compensation insurance.

During the announcement, Wolf urged the legislature to pass S.B. 13, sponsored by Sen. Vince Hughes, and H.B. 1035, sponsored by Rep. Mike Zabel, which would provide paid sick leave to workers in Pennsylvania. The administration estimates that 400,000 Pennsylvania workers lack paid sick leave.

PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement in response to the governor’s announcement.

“We appreciate the governor’s intent and urge his administration to solicit input from employers to help avoid unintended consequences.

For example, requiring strict wage and benefit standards for employers to qualify for state aid may not impact larger corporations but could pull critical lifelines from small businesses already struggling through pandemic and workforce crises.

The governor has also called for public shaming of employers who violate labor laws.  We certainly support holding accountable those who skirt the law, harming employees and creating an unfair advantage over law-abiding competitors.  At the same time, policymakers should recognize that violations are often unintentional and eventually remedied. Employment laws and regulations are notoriously complicated; such as similar federal and state laws that include subtle differences creating what’s known as the ‘compliance trap.’ 

The governor mentioned employers owing unemployment compensation back taxes, but some may not even be aware they owe, especially after the chaos of the last year and a half.  We would hope a public list of ‘bad actors’ only incudes companies who violate the law and willfully fail to comply after exhausting appeals or any administrative resolution process.”

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