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What Employers Need to Know About Pennsylvania Fair Employment

When it comes to penalties for non-compliance, very few laws hold a candle to anti-discrimination laws. So, it is that much more important that employers not only understand the requirements of federal discrimination laws but the equal opportunity employment laws of their state as well. 

This is everything employers need to know about Pennsylvania discrimination laws.

Pennsylvania Discrimination Law

When it comes to Pennsylvania, employers primarily need to understand the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). The PHRA generally applies to:

  • Employers with four or more employees
  • Labor Organizations
  • Employment Agencies

How Do I Determine How Many Employees I Have According to PHRA?

In order to determine how many employees an employer has according to PHRA, managers and business owners need to understand which types of workers the PHRA excludes. 

Under the PHRA, the following three types of workers do not count towards the "four-employee count":

  • Individuals employed in agricultural or domestic service
  • Any individual who resides in the personal residence of the employer
  • Any individual employed by his or her parents, spouse, or child

Protected Traits Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)

Under the PHRA, a protected trait is a characteristic of an employee or potential new hire, that an employer may not cite as the reason for an adverse employment action. 

In essence, employers may not fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise take any negative action as a result of an employee's or applicant's:

  • Race
  • Skin Color
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Sex
  • Ancestry 
  • National Origin
  • Religion 
  • Disability 
  • Use of, handling of, or training of guide or support animals for disability 

Another Pennsylvania state law also protects members of the military from similar discrimination, including those from out of the state. It protects employees from adverse employment actions based on military membership or based on being called / ordered to active duty.

PHRA Prohibited Actions

Employers may not take any of the following adverse actions based on any protected trait under the PHRA:

  • Denying a person an equal opportunity to obtain employment, to be promoted, or to be accorded any other rights to compensation, tenure, or other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment
  • Denying a person membership rights and privileges in any labor organization
  • Denying a person equal opportunity to be referred for employment
  • Refusing to contract or otherwise discriminate in contracts with any independent contractor who is licensed by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs


The PHRA makes one exception for religious institutions, denominational institutions, and charitable or educational organizations. These entities are allowed to give preferential treatment to people of the same religion or denomination. 

How to Enforce Fair Employment in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) is the government entity that enforces the PHRA. The PHRC conducts all investigations, as well as hearings, in order to determine whether an employer is in compliance. 

Employees are also able to submit complaints against employers for any non-compliance through the file-a-complaint section of the PHRC website. However, employees need to file a complaint within 180 days of the alleged incident of discrimination. 

PHRA Posting Requirements

Pennsylvania employers must post a notice of the PHRA’s requirements in a conspicuous place or places on their premises. Copies of the required poster may be obtained from the PHRC by request.

Final Thoughts On Pennsylvania Fair Employment 

Employers who are having trouble managing compliance for Pennsylvania fair employment should consider seeking help from an HR and payroll provider

For further questions regarding Pennsylvania discrimination law, or to see how Paytime is already helping countless businesses manage compliance, contact us today.

Pennsylvania Employee Handbook WebinarSource:


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