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March 2022: Pittsburgh Expands Workplace Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence

01 Mar

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Update Applicable to:
All employers with five or more employees in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What happened?
On December 6, 2021, then-Mayor Bill Peduto, signed Bill No. 2021-2185 amending the city’s workplace anti-discrimination ordinance to include victims of domestic violence as a protected class.

What are the details?
Under the amended ordinance, employers with five or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their actual or perceived status as victims of domestic violence and must attempt to reasonably accommodate such individuals, if needed. The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, which is tasked with enforcing the ordinance, also established and released employer guidance (which can be found in the Legislation details here), shedding more light on these new requirements.

Under the ordinance and its accompanying guidance, an employer (including an employment agency or labor union) may not refuse to hire, treat less favorably, or deny a person employment, membership, or participation in a program based on his or her status as a survivor of domestic violence. In addition, an employer may not retaliate against an individual for seeking protection under the ordinance or implement policies that disproportionately impact employees based on their protected status.

Notably, the guidance also requires employers to engage in an interactive process with employees who need reasonable accommodations based on their status as domestic violence victims. Examples of potential reasonable accommodations, according to the guidance, include the following:

  • Modifying the layout of a workspace
  • Adjusting work schedules
  • Allowing for leave (e.g., for a court date or medical appointment)
  • Enhancing policies to ensure security
  • Transfer or reassignment
  • Changing a telephone number or email
  • Installing a lock or security device
  • Developing code words to allow employees to safely signal a need for help, such as security or police

An employer need not grant a specific accommodation if doing so would impose an undue hardship on its financial or administrative operations.

The guidance warns that “it can be harmful for the employer to demand ‘proof’” of an individual’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, and the guidance is silent as to whether an employer may request supporting documentation (e.g., police or court records) in response to a request for leave. An employer may document the information provided by the employee during the reasonable accommodation interactive process.

For more information, please see the links below.

Bill No. 2021-2185

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and prepare to provide any accommodations for victims of domestic abuse so long as it does not impose any hardship on its financial or administrative operations.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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