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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Who is Protected from Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Pennsylvania?

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Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment is Prohibited by Some Pennsylvania Municipalities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently ruled that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC opinion explains that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex-based discrimination, and, therefore, prohibited under the law’s “sex” provision. Its decision, however, is not binding on courts. It is up to the courts to interpret the law. Until the Supreme Court rules on this matter, the lower courts can dismiss a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit. Thankfully, though, some Pennsylvania municipalities have already taken steps to protect the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (“LGBT”) citizens.

Protections from Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

Despite the recent EEOC ruling, there is no federal law that protects the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. About half of the 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation – Pennsylvania, however, is not one of them. Despite the fact that the state legalized same-sex marriage in 2014, Pennsylvanians are still facing sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace with no statewide law to protect them.

Certain municipalities have recognized the need for these types of protections. To expand the rights of their LGBT citizens, they have enacted local ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. If you think you might have a case under one of these municipalities’ ordinances, speak with an employment attorney.

Pennsylvania Municipalities Prohibiting Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment

Larger municipalities include:

  1. Philadelphia

  2. Pittsburgh

  3. Allentown

  4. Erie

  5. Reading

  6. Scranton

  7. Bethlehem

  8. Lancaster

  9. Harrisburg

  10. York

  11. State College

  12. Easton

Smaller municipalities include:

  1. Abington Township

  2. Cheltenham Borough

  3. Conshohocken Borough

  4. Downington Borough

  5. Doylestown Borough

  6. East Norriton Township

  7. Haverford Township

  8. Jenkintown Borough

  9. Lansdowne Borough

  10. Lower Merion Township

  11. New Hope Borough

  12. Newtown Borough

  13. Oxford Borough

  14. Pittston

  15. Springfield Township (Montgomery County)

  16. State College Borough

  17. Susquehanna Township

  18. Swarthmore Borough

  19. Upper Merion Township

  20. West Chester

  21. Whitemarsh Township

Keep in mind:

  1. Two counties – Erie and Allegheny – have ordinances prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in employment.

  2. This list may not be complete; it will grow as more municipalities pass ordinances on sexual orientation discrimination.

  3. Some, but not all, municipalities on this list prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

What Sexual Orientation Discrimination Looks Like

Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace can come in many forms – sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle.

  1. Suppose your employer uses gay slurs around you and fires you because she learns that you are homosexual. This is clearly sexual orientation discrimination.

  2. For an example of sexual orientation discrimination that is less obvious, suppose you are qualified for a promotion. Your employer refuses to promote you. In fact, he gives the promotion to a less-qualified candidate. You believe he treated you unfairly on the basis of your sexual orientation. This, although less obviously so, can still be a form of sexual orientation discrimination.

If you believe you have a case, you should seek advice from an employment attorney who can discuss the particulars of your situation with you.

Handling Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

If you believe you have been discriminated against by your employer on the basis of your sexual orientation, contact a KM&A attorney for a free and immediate consultation with an experienced discrimination attorney. We represent clients across Pennsylvania. It is our philosophy that in order to aggressively pursue our clients’ interests, we have to be extremely accessible. Don’t hesitate to call us in Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626 or in Philadelphia at 215-618-9185 or email us at

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