What is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act?

When it comes to discrimination, there are several different statutes that may apply to your particular situation. There are federal statutes such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most people are aware that these discrimination statutes exist. However, if bringing an employment discrimination lawsuit in Pennsylvania, you may want to consider the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 P.S. §§951-963.

What is the purpose of the PHRA?

The PHRA is a state statute that deals with employment discrimination. The PHRA was enacted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania mainly because the denial of equal employment (because of discrimination) results in individuals not being utilized to their fullest potential, deprives individuals the ability to maintain decent standards of living and necessitates their resort to public relief, thereby resulting in grave injury to the public health and welfare. The Commonwealth created this statute as an exercise of police power for the “protection of the public welfare, prosperity, health and peace of the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” 42 P.S. §952(c).

What type of discrimination does the PHRA prohibit?

The PHRA prohibits against certain practices of discrimination such as, race, color, religious creed, ancestry, etc. The PHRA specifically provides that:

It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice [. . .] for any employer because of the race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin or non-job related handicap or disability or the use of a guide or support animal because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of any individual or independent contractor, to refuse to hire or employ or contract with, or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or independent contractor, or to otherwise discriminate against such individual or independent contractor with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment or contract, if the individual or independent contractor is the best able and most competent to perform the services required[.]

43 P.S. §955.

The PHRA is similar to Title VII in that it encompasses a wide range of discrimination. For example, if you believe you were denied a job because of your race or the fact that you are a woman, you may be able to bring an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer under the PHRA. If you believe you were terminated because your employer found out you were born in Canada, you may be able to bring an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer under the PHRA.

It is important to remember that just because you think you fall into one of these categories of discrimination, doesn’t mean you actually do. The PHRA is complex and has many exceptions. You need to review this statute very carefully before proceeding with an employment discrimination lawsuit.