Reprinted from the April 20th edition of The Legal Intelligencer. (c) 2023 ALM Media Properties. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.
On March 23, 2022, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) proposed new regulations to expand the definition of certain protected classes. The Amendments will create new Pennsylvania Code Sections at 16 Pa. Code §§ 41.201 – 41.207, and would expand the terms “sex”; “religious creed” and “race” for purposes of the Pennsylvania Humans Relations Act (“PHRA”) and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act (“PFEOA”). The regulations were approved on December 8, 2022. The regulations are not yet in effect, but will become effective 60 days after publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
The PHRA prohibits discrimination in employment because of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin or non-job related handicap or disability. 43 Pa. Stat. § 955(a). The regulations relating to the PHRA previously provided definitions only for the terms “pregnancy” and “disability due to pregnancy or childbirth”. 16 Pa. Code 41.101. The definition of the other protected classes was left to the PHRC’s guidance and cases interpreting the statute.
The amendments to Title 16 of the Pennsylvania Code would add a new subchapter, entitled “Protected Classes”, for the purpose of ensuring that all unlawful discriminatory practices proscribed by the PHRA and PFEOA are “interpreted and applied consistently”, and that all complaints filed with the PHRC “are investigated consistent with the rules outlined herein.” The regulations calls for liberal construction to accomplish the purpose of the PHRA and PFEOA.