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Pennsylvania Redefines Discrimination Based on Religious Creed, Sex and Race

On February 22, 2023, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) was amended to redefine discrimination based on religious creed, sex and race. The amendment makes it clear that discrimination based on these factors is unlawful and that victims of discrimination have the right to file complaints and seek damages. The PHRA’s provisions apply to all employers, businesses and organizations in Pennsylvania.

Specifically, the amendments:

  • Redefine religious creed to clarify an employer’s duty to provide a reasonable accommodation for a religious observance or practice unless the employer establishes undue hardship;
  • Redefine sex to include:
    • Pregnancy;
    • Sex assigned at birth;
    • Gender, including gender identity or expression;
    • Affectional or sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality; and
    • Differences of sex development, variations of sex characteristics or other intersex characteristics; and
  • Adds protections for ethnic characteristics under the definition of race.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers should review and update their equal employment opportunity, non-harassment/non-discrimination and accommodations policies to include updated language regarding these terms, if needed.

Best practice is to also ensure that employees have been trained on these updates, including how to recognize conduct that could constitute discrimination or harassment and how to respond to and report it.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.