How do PA, NJ, and DE address discrimination based on sexual orientation?

October 3, 2010
By Eric B. Meyer on October 3, 2010 11:25 AM |
Recently, I read an article by Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle about a speech from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in which he told law students from U.C. Hastings that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection to all U.S. citizens, do not preclude discrimination based on sex. Justice Scalia believes that the drafters of the Constitution did not have sex discrimination on the brain when they passed the 14th Amendment.

Ok, so the U.S. Constitution does not provide employees with a cause of action against employers for sex discrimination. But Title VII for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does. And so do laws in all states and many large cities.

But what about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual)? Surely, I'll lay good odds that the framers of the U.S. Constitution weren't thinking about GLB rights when they dotted I's and crossed T's on the 14th Amendment. And Title VII does not cover sexual orientation; although a 1998 Executive Order does protect Federal Employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

At the state and city level it varies. Let's break it down for employers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware:

1. Delaware: Yes, under the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act.
2. New Jersey: Yes, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.
3. Pennsylvania: No, not under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
4. Philadelphia: Yes.
5. Harrisburg: Yes.
6. Pittsburgh: Yes.

Employers in Pennsylvania that operate in counties without sexual orientation discrimination laws may elect to implement HR policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.