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What discrimination protections does PA provide to employees?

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Employment Law (Employee)

Pennsylvania’s stance against workplace discrimination is robust. This mirrors federal laws, but at the heart of the state’s anti-discrimination framework lies the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The PHRA safeguards employees across various domains, such as employment, housing, commercial premises, education and public accommodations.

Pennsylvania law

The PHRA delineates protected classes, including race, color, age (40 and above), sex, ancestry, national origin, religion, familial status (pertaining to housing), disability, use of service animals and retaliation. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act addresses discrimination in higher education and secondary vocational institutions.

Recent amendments have expanded these protections. Sex now explicitly encompasses pregnancy, childbirth, gender identity and sexual orientation. Race now explicitly extends to traits such as hair texture and protective hairstyles. And, “Religious Creed” now covers all aspects of religious observance and belief.

Federal law overlap

Pennsylvania employees also benefit from federal protections under laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Though, employees aggrieved by discrimination can file complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, who enforces the PHRA and PFEOA and provides recourse for civil justice.


Pennsylvania’s comprehensive state laws, coupled with federal provisions, ensure robust protection against discrimination in our workplaces. To learn more about your rights and how to initiate a complaint, visit the PHRC’s official website for your state rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s webpage for your federal rights.