Zachary Zawarski is an Employment and Labor Law attorney practicing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. If you have been terminated from you employment because of your sexual orientation, I may be able to help you.
The below article was originally written in 2010. The recent U.S. Supreme Court Case has dramatically changed the legal landscape with respect to the laws that apply to individuals’ sexual orientation and how they are interpreted. This is an evolving area of the law, which is undergoing a lot of changes.
I am currently not taking any cases in the area of sexual discrimination orientation since I have not been keeping up with the changes to this area of law. The below article is for informational purposes only and covers how the law was viewed in 2010 and does not reflect what the law currently is.
Individuals who are seeking an attorney for sexual orientation discrimination may contact me for a referral.
State and Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
If you have already sought the advice of an attorney, they may have stated that you do not have a claim because sexual orientation is not a protected class under federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) or Pennsylvania state law, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). While this is true, there are additional bases in which to bring a suit for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which you should be mindful of.
Current Pennsylvania Legislation
No Current State Law On Sexual Orientation Discrimination
While some states have recognized sexual orientation as a protected class when it comes to discrimination, Pennsylvania’s state legislature has not yet extended this protection. It is currently being debated by the PA state legislature and House Bill 300 (HB-300)Â seeks to amend the PHRA.
New Jersey, for example, has already taken to step of extending discrimination protection in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation, so it may only be a matter of time until these rights are included in PA state law. Since PA’s legislature has failed to take action, several municipalities have taken the initiative to grant rights to those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
Pennsylvania Municipalities Recognizing Sexual Orientation Rights
There are 16 municipalities in Pennsylvania who have enacted local ordinances to provide discrimination protection on the basis of sexual orientation: Allentown, Reading, Easton, York, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Scranton, New Hope, Erie County, West Chester, Lansdale, Swarthmore, State College, and Allegheney Count.
If you are located within one of those jurisdictions, you would be protected from discrimination. However, you may be wondering what your rights are if you are not located within those jurisdictions. What if your jurisdiction has not enacted an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation? Are you protected from discrimination?
Alternative Theories For Discrimination Protection
Under some circumstances, courts have permitted discrimination suits to proceed on the basis of gender. If harassing remarks are being made regarding stereotypical gender characteristics, courts may interpret this as discrimination on the basis of gender.
For example, if a homosexual is being harassed for not being masculine enough to perform a certain job, courts can interpret this as gender discrimination. Â In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court recognized that discrimination based on “sex stereotypes” amounts to gender discrimination.
Therefore, if an employer terminates you for “being gay,” under federal law, you would not have a claim. However, if an employer terminates you for “not being masculine enough,” you may have a claim because this has been interpreted by the courts as gender discrimination, which is federally-recognized protected class.
If you have faced any kind of discrimination in the workplace, I would like to discuss your case with you. Please contact me by calling (484) 362-9286 or you can email me.
For more information on rights on the basis of sexual orientation in Pennsylvania, please visit EqualityPA.org. You may also want to write your State Representative asking them to support HB-300.