Employers covered by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) don’t have to worry about being sued separately under the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Recent case: Tonilynn Fay sued Muhlenberg College, alleging that her supervisor subjected her to a sexually hostile environment by making constant anti-female remarks. She complained to , but it did nothing.
Fay’s lawsuit included federal Title VII and PHRA claims, plus an additional sex discrimination claim under the Pennsylvania ERA. Pennsylvania enacted the constitutional amendment in 1971 to prohibit sex-based discrimination.
The federal court considering Fay’s lawsuit dismissed the ERA part. It reasoned that the PHRA exclusively covers sex discrimination claims unless the law doesn’t apply to that employer. In this case, that meant Fay couldn’t bring an additional claim. Her lawsuit will continue on the Title VII and PHRA claims. (Fay v. Muhlenberg College, No. 07-4516, ED PA, 2008)
Final note: A case pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court concerns a related issue. The court will soon decide whether Pennsylvania employers with fewer than four employees (who can’t be sued under the PHRA) can be sued under the Pennsylvania Constitution.
- Changing compensation systems? Here's how to avoid age discrimination claims
- Add credibility to investigation notes by having employees acknowledge their accuracy
- Make sure bosses tell employees how to report harassment
- When recognition runs in short supply
- Investigate or else! When harassment surfaces, HR inquiries and action could be worth millions