What You Need to Know About Pennsylvania Workplace Discrimination Laws

Employees are protected by law from discrimination in the workplace. Here’s everything you need to know about Pennsylvania workplace discrimination laws.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on several factors. The four main categories of discrimination: are racial, sex, age, and disability discrimination. A discrimination claim may be filed with either the state administrative agency, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Illegal Discrimination Factors

In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of:

  • Race,
  • Color,
  • National origin,
  • Religion,
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions),
  • Disability,
  • Age (40 and older),
  • Citizenship status,
  • Genetic information,
  • GED rather than a high school diploma,
  • Use of service animals,
  • Relationship or association with an employee with disabilities.
  • Do Antidiscrimination Laws Apply to All Employers in Pennsylvania?
  • Federal antidiscrimination laws apply to Pennsylvania employers with 15 or more employees, with the following exceptions:
  • age discrimination (employers with 20 or more employees),
  • Citizenship status discrimination (employers with four or more employees), and
  • Equal pay for men and women (all employers).
  • Pennsylvania’s state antidiscrimination laws apply to companies with four or more employees.
  • Deadlines for Filing a Discrimination Claim

Related: Pennsylvania Unfair Competition Laws

An employee should not waste any time filing a discrimination claim against an employer. To preserve a claim under state law, an employee must file with the PHRC (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the incident. To preserve a claim under federal law, an employee must file with the EEOC within 180 days after the incident took place. Pennsylvania courts apply an exception for the deadline with age discrimination claims since the state specifically has a law against age discrimination and an agency to address it; the deadline for age discrimination is 300 days. An employee should consult with a legal attorney with experience in labor laws.

Steps to Take After Filing with the EEOC

After receiving the file, the EEOC will give the employee and their attorney a copy of the charge with a charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. 

The EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both the employee and employer to take part in a mediation program,
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to the discrimination charge and answer questions related to the employee’s claim, then assign an investigator to the charge,
  • Dismiss the claim if the charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction.

If the EEOC decides to investigate the employee’s charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, they will let the employee and employer know the outcome. If the EEOC decides that discrimination did not occur, then they will send the employee a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

Related: How to Win a Wage Claim in Pennsylvania

The notice gives the employee permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred, then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement is not reached between the employer and the EEOC, the employee’s case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”               The duration of the investigation depends on the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. Generally, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge can often settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

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If you or a loved one would like to learn more about Pennsylvania Workplace Discrimination Laws, get your free consultation with one of our Employment Attorneys in Pennsylvania today!