Pennsylvania’s employment laws appear to be inching closer to New Jersey’s (aka the California of the East)


When I think of Pennsylvania, it’s the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks, and that putrid football team from Pittsburgh with the fans that wave yellow towels.

I also think of employer-friendly employment laws.

But one of those associations may soon be eroding. (Spoiler alert: not my opinion of the hapless Steelers).

Last week, Pennsylvania’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved this proposed rulemaking from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) that would create new/updated employment law definitions of sex, religious creed, and race as used in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Let’s break down the changes:


The proposed regulation provides a comprehensive definition for the protected class of sex, including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, and differences in sex development.

Religious Creed

Concerning religious creed discrimination, the proposed regulation provides a comprehensive definition of the term religious creed, which is consistent with the definition of religion in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, the proposed regulation explains that the term “religious creed” includes all aspects of religious observance, practice, and belief.


For race discrimination, the proposed regulation provides a comprehensive definition for the term race, including ancestry, national origin, ethnic characteristics, interracial marriage or association, traits historically associated with race, persons of Hispanic national origin or ancestry, and persons of any other national origin or ancestry as specified in a PHRC complaint. Additionally, the proposed regulation explains that race includes traits historically associated with race. Therefore, the PHRA will now interpret race to include hairstyles culturally associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.

You can read the exact changes here (starting on page 103).

According to a press release from the Governor, these new regulatory changes are effective as of December 8, 2022. But this article suggests that they won’t take effect until next year. As does this one. Either way, if you do business in Pennsylvania, consult with counsel about updating your handbooks accordingly.

Speaking of which, join us on Friday, December 16, 2022, at Noon ET for The Employer Handbook Zoom Office Hour: “The ESSENTIAL Employment Law Updates for 2023.”

The Zoom is not state-specific, and we won’t be giving any legal advice. But I reserve the right to take more cheap shots at the Steelers.

Go ahead now and click here to register.

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