Pennsylvania Discrimination Laws and Agencies

State vs. Federal Agencies

If you’ve been discriminated against, your options include going to a Federal or a State agency. The claims before both are similar, but there are some differences.

  • Some reasons why claimants file in Pennsylvania rather than federal court are:
    • Federal claims are normally limited to employers who have 15 or more employees. Pennsylvania claims cover employers with as low as 4 employees.
    • Some discrimination claims are specific to Pennsylvania
  • Some reasons why claimants choose the Federal Agency, known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC)
    • Federal discrimination laws may allow for punitive damages
    • Federal courts may allow for jury trials. Awards in jury trials can be larger than awards by judge.

Pennsylvania Discrimination Agency

The agency that handles Pennsylvania employment discrimination complaints is the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission. There are offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania State Laws on Discrimination

  • Pennsylvania Discrimination Law. The Pennsylvania Human Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination (and other forms) in the following areas:
    • Age
    • Ancestry,
    • Color,
    • Creed (religion)
    • Disability or Handicap
    • Use of guide dogs or support animals for blindness
    • Familial status
    • Nationality or national origin,
    • Race,
    • Sex, Affectional or sexual orientation, Gender identity or expression.

How is a state discrimination case handled?

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission handles your claim in the following way:

  • Claims need to be brought within a specific time frame,
  • The state agency will start an investigation to determine if there is probable cause to believe discrimination has occurred.
  • If there is not probable cause, the agency will inform the employee that they can request a formal hearing
  • It there is probable cause, then the state agency will try to work out a settlement (this is formally called a conciliation).
  • If a settlement/conciliation can’t be worked out, then the case will be heard before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
  • Ultimately, if the claimant does not like the agency result, he or she can bring a claim in state court.

What damages can the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission order? The director can order that the employer:

  • Stop the unlawful conduct
  • Hire, reinstate or upgrading the employee to a specific position
  • Pay back wages and back benefits
  • Restore membership or require admission, if the respondent is a labor organization
  • Travel expenses
  • Require reasonable accommodations
  • Pay attorney’s fees
  • Pay for pain and emotional distress
  • Restore health and pension benefits
  • Restore seniority rights

How Begelman & Orlow, P. C. Can Help

You have the right to have a lawyer assist you at every stage of your claim including claims before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. A skilled discrimination lawyer can:

  • Make sure you meet all your deadlines
  • Make sure you are prepared for the agency investigation
  • Make sure you have all the documents you need
  • Argue the facts and the law
  • Pursue your claim before the agency and in state court.

Our Firm’s Experience
The attorneys of Begelman & Orlow, P. C. have offices in Cherry Hill, Pennsylvania and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Contact our offices at 866-627-7052. We have 115 years combined experience protecting your rights and experience in all phases of employment law, including bringing discrimination claims before Pennsylvania and federal agencies and in federal and state courts.

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