Sexual Orientation, Employment Discrimination & PAJanuary 28, 2016
Employment Discrimination in Pennsylvania Based on Sexual Orientation
As many of you know from my recent posts, the last three years have brought significant improvements in the lives of gay and lesbian people. For instance, the law of the United States now permits gays and lesbians to marry in all fifty (50) states. This occurred after a landmark Supreme Court case, a significant number of earlier court cases and acts in various state legislatures that began the process throughout the country.
However, discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and other areas is still legal in most of the country.
Employment and LGBT Rights in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there has been a long history of anti-discrimination legislation. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act was enacted in 1955 and prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, etc. This law predated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which applied the same law to the rest of the United States.
However, there is no provision in either law to protect people based on their sexual orientation.
In the worst case scenario, there have been situations where gay people have married over the weekend only to find they lose their job on Monday. In Pennsylvania, and many other states, this is perfectly legal. Likewise, landlords can discriminate against gay people in the process of seeking rental housing.
The focus of this post is to bring to your attention the fact that this situation can change. In Pennsylvania, there is a new legislation way to remedy this situation. There are Bills working through the Legislature in both Houses for action on the “Pennsylvania Fairness Act.” There is a version called House Bill 1510, and also Senate Bill 974.
Both Bills seek to increase the scope of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.
Until the budget stalemate in Pennsylvania concludes, this will probably not be a priority for our Legislators; however, basic human fairness dictates that this change must occur.