PA Human Relations Commission Expands Discrimination Protection with Inclusive Definitions

On Aug. 16, 2023, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC)’s new regulations went into effect. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), the state law prohibiting discrimination, expanded the definitions for sex, religious creed and race to now include the following additional protected characteristics:

Sex Discrimination includes:

  • Pregnancy status                                
  • Sex assigned at birth (includes male, female or intersex)
  • Gender, including a person’s gender identity or gender expression
  • Affectional or sexual orientation, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality
  • Differences of sex development, variations of sex characteristics or other intersex characteristics

Pregnancy includes the following:

  • The use of assisted reproductive technology
  • The state of being in gestation
  • Childbirth
  • Breastfeeding
  • The postpartum period after childbirth
  • Medical conditions related to pregnanc

Religious Creed Discrimination includes:

  • All aspects of religious observance, practice or belief (including moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views; and beliefs a complainant professes without regard to whether a religious group espouses these beliefs)

Race Discrimination includes:

  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Ethnic characteristics (includes physical characteristics such as skin and hair color, body size and facial features typical of persons of a particular cultural or social background; linguistic characteristics such as language or dialect; behavioral or cultural characteristics such as religion or customs; and environmental characteristics such as living in the same area or region)
  • Interracial marriage or association
  • Traits associated with race (includes, but is not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks and twists)
  • Hispanic ancestry, national origin or ethnic characteristics, including, but not limited to, persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central or South American or other Spanish origin or culture
  • Persons of any other national origin or ancestry as specified by a complainant in a complaint

The updated regulation is available here for viewing.

If you have any questions, need assistance to update your handbook and/or policies or would like to learn more about the updated regulation, please contact Lisa Scidurlo at or Theresa Zechman at