Pennsylvania Expands Scope of Discrimination Protections: What You Need to Know | Fox Rothschild LLP

Using regulatory process rather than legislation, in 2023 Pennsylvania will significantly expand protections against discrimination in employment, education, public housing, and housing.

On December 8, 2022, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved the regulations by a 3-2 vote that were originally submitted for review by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) in March 2022. The Pennsylvania Code will be amended to define protected classes under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunity Act. The regulations will take effect after a period of legislative review and publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. In addition to landlords, realtors, property management companies, schools, colleges and universities, the newly expanded regulations apply to Pennsylvania employers with four or more employees.

The regulations define the terms “sex”, “race” and “religious belief” to specifically include anti-bias protections for the LGBTQ+ community and for people with traditionally black hairstyles and textures.

The regulations provide a comprehensive definition relating to the protected category of “sex” to include pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth (including but not limited to male, female or intersex ), gender identity or expression, emotional or sexual orientation (including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality), and differences in sexual development.

With respect to racial discrimination, the regulations broadly define a comprehensive definition of the term “race” to include ancestry, national origin, ethnic characteristics, interracial marriage or association, traits associated with race ( including hair texture and hairstyles culturally associated with race, such as braids, locks, and twists), persons of Hispanic national origin or ancestry, and persons of any other national origin or ancestry.

With respect to discrimination based on religious belief, the regulations provide a comprehensive definition of the term “religious belief” to include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as creed.

While the PHRC had taken the position that the law already encompassed these protections, the enactment of regulations gives this policy the force of law when the regulations come into effect. The regulations will be codified in 16 Pa. Code Chapter 41.201-41.207.

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