Asking prospective employees whether they’re married or have children is not illegal in Pennsylvania, but it’s a very bad idea.
Advocacy group MomsRising and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission have tried unsuccessfully to pass state legislation making it illegal to discriminate against employees because of their marital or parental status. The groups are pushing a pair of bills that would add marital and familial status to the list of protected categories. The bills, which are opposed by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, have died in committee twice and are poised to fail again. Similar bills have already been adopted in 22 states and will likely spread to other states in the coming years.
Meanwhile, such questions can potentially lead to a discrimination charge under federal law. How? Employers are vulnerable to expensive sexual discrimination lawsuits if applicants or employees can show discrimination based on gender. Since men are rarely asked about marital or familial status, employers should apply this litmus test: If you aren’t asking men, don’t ask women.