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Aug 20, 2013

By Eric B. Meyer

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws banning workplace discrimination in the private sector on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which currently bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in public employment, may soon become the latest state to ban it in the private sector as well.

(The term “gender identity or expression” means actual or perceived gender identity, appearance, behavior, expression or physical characteristics whether or not associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth).

Poll shows public support

A bill to amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to add these workplace protections was introduced last week in the Pennsylvania Senate with some bipartisan (but mostly Democratic) support. The same bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania House the week before. Each measure would also carry the same restrictions in housing, credit and public accommodations.

While prior attempts to get similar legislation passed in Pennsylvania have failed, a recent poll indicates support for this measure throughout the Commonwealth. Plus, many large cities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have LGBT workplace laws.

And, even without a law on the books statewide, many large employers have led by example. According to the Human Rights Campaign, as of April 2013, 434 (88 percent) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 282 (57 percent) had policies that include gender identity.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s position on these bills is unclear.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.