Pennsylvania: Expanded Definition of Race, Sex, and Religious Creed


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Key Takeaways

  • Pennsylvania prohibitions on discrimination are expanded to include hairstyles, hair texture, sexual orientation, and all aspects of religious observation.
  •  Violations can result in civil penalties, criminal charges, and civil liability including compensatory and punitive damages.


The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission approved amendments to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act to expand the definitions of race, gender, and religious creed. The regulations will include protective hairstyles and hair texture associated with race in the definition of race. In addition, the definition of sex includes sexual orientation.

Under the PHRA, prohibited discriminatory practices due to sex will include pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions; breastfeeding, sex assigned at birth; gender identity or gender expression; affectional or sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality; and differences of sex development, variations of sex characteristics, or other intersex characteristics. Religious creed will include all aspects of religious observation and practice in addition to belief.

Once the final rule is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, the new regulations will go into effect within 60 days of the publication date.

Action Items

  1. Review and update discrimination and harassment policies as well as trainings.
  2. Have appropriate personnel trained on expanded definitions.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase