Update applicable to:
All employers in Pennsylvania and multi-state employers with workers in Pennsylvania
On June 17, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) passed new regulations under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”) that will go into effect on August 16, 2023.
What are the details?
The PHRA prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, or disability. The previous regulations published by the PHRC defined only ‘pregnancy’ and ‘disability due to childbirth,’ leaving the definitions of the other protected classes up to PHRC guidance and Pennsylvania caselaw.
Under the new regulations, the PHRC now includes definitions for ‘race,’ ‘sex,’ and ‘religious creed.’ For the most part, the new definitions track federal and Pennsylvania caselaw, and provide some clarity on areas that were previously ambiguous. Though the changes may seem small, they are likely to have a large impact.
The changes to the definition of ‘sex’ under the PHRA bring the term in line with how courts have interpreted ‘sex’ under Title VII and Title IX.
Noting some ambiguity with respect to the definition of religious creed under the PHRA, the PHRC added a definition of religious creed.
Perhaps the most significant changes in the regulations relate to race discrimination.
For more information, please see the links below:
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)
What do employers need to do?
Employers should take the opportunity to review their handbooks and Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) policies and programs to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Employers should also review any policies concerning appearance in the workplace to ensure the policy is compliant with the PHRA’s definitions of race, sex, and religious creed. Employers should also make sure employees are aware of their EEO policies, including anti-discrimination and retaliation policies, and the process for reporting complaints.
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