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Wolf Signs Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Orders

On April 11, 2016 by Schnader in Labor and Employment

By Karen Baillie

On April 7, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed two executive orders barring discrimination against workers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Executive Order 2016-04 prohibits government agencies from discriminating against employees or employment applicants on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, union membership, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identify or expression, national origin, AIDS or HIV status, or disability. It also mandates that each agency designate an Equal Opportunity Officer to implement the new policy. The order further encourages independent agencies, state-affiliated entities and state-related agencies to adopt similar practices.

The second directive, Executive Order 2016-05, bars discrimination, including by reason of sexual orientation or gender identity, in the award and selection of contracts issued by Commonwealth agencies. It extends to companies and individuals awarded Commonwealth contracts in the hiring and treatment of their employees, as well as any related subcontracts or supply contracts.

These executive orders add to a patchwork of state and local laws governing these matters. Although many of the state’s largest cities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, no such state-wide law exists. In August of 2015, state lawmakers introduced legislation that would update Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression as protected categories, but no action has been taken on the bills. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that discrimination based on sex extends to sexual orientation, and has filed lawsuits accusing employers of discrimination under this theory.

In light of these orders, we recommend that all employers doing business with the Commonwealth review their employment policies and amend them where necessary.