Two members of Philadelphia City Council have introduced a bill that would modify the protections against discrimination under the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance by adding "domestic or sexual violence victim status," "familial status," and "genetic information" as protected classes. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Law and Government for further examination.

The current Fair Employment Practices Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation, and housing. The bill would continue to expand on anti-discrimination protection under the existing Ordinance and would expand such protection beyond that afforded currently by state and federal law.

Among the proposed changes expanding the substantive rights of employees are the following:

  • Discrimination on the basis of a protected class, including both the expanded classes above and those classes already protected (e.g., race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, handicap or disability, or marital status), would be prohibited both for actual or perceived membership in a class.
  • Discrimination on the basis of familial relationship would encompass persons who are now or are becoming a provider of care or support to a broadly defined set of family members. It also would apply to any person who is pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of an individual under age 18.
  • Discrimination on the basis of genetic information would encompass information about an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members, and the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members.
  • Discrimination on the basis of domestic or sexual violence victim status would be expanded beyond the leave rights and protection for such individuals created by the Philadelphia Entitlement to Leave Due to Domestic or Sexual Violence Ordinance, enacted in 2008.
  • The bill includes stronger anti-retaliation provisions, including protection from harassment, threats, harm, damage, or other retaliation, because a person complied with the Fair Employment Practice Ordinance, exercised rights under the Ordinance, or enjoyed the benefits of the Ordinance.

The bill would empower the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) to issue an order, subject to judicial review, directing a respondent who is found to have engaged in an unlawful employment practice to take affirmative action to redress harms suffered, including: cease-and-desist orders; injunctive relief such as hiring or reinstatement, with or without back pay; payment of compensatory damages; payment of punitive damages (not to exceed $2,000 per violation); reasonable attorneys fees and hearing costs.

The bill also addresses the procedures for filing and investigation of complaints before the PCHR, including new provisions providing that complaints be filed within 300 days after the occurrence; that the respondent file an answer; and that a complaining party may sue in court if, within one year after filing the administrative complaint, the PCHR has not dismissed the complaint or entered into a conciliation agreement.

If you have questions about these proposed changes or how they would affect your business or organization, please contact Brian D. Pedrow, at 215.864.8108 or, or any other member of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group.

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