General Information about Employment

Many laws and regulations apply to employment.  Not all employment problems are about discrimination.

Learn more about the Women’s Law Project’s work on Employment Rights. In Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, we address the negative impact that sex bias can have in the work place.

Discrimination at Work

There are many forms of employment discrimination.

Key facts about anti-discrimination laws:

  • The deadlines for filing discrimination complaints are VERY SHORT. Pay attention.
  • Federal laws apply to the whole country.
  • State laws may be similar to or different from federal anti-discrimination laws.
  • Many cities and towns have local laws (called ordinances in PA) that may provide additional protection.
  • If you are not protected at one level of government, you should check the other levels.
What is Sex Discrimination in Employment?

Sex discrimination in employment includes sexual harassment, unequal pay, discrimination in hiring, promotions, and firing, pregnancy discrimination, and other employer actions that are prohibited by anti-discrimination laws.  These laws also address discrimination based on other factors such as race, national origin, age, and more.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint
Resources for Legal Help with Employment Discrimination
Are You Pregnant? Understanding Your Rights at Work

Follow the links above to learn more about discrimination against pregnant workers and what to do about it.  Here is a quick overview:

Information That Might Help Anyone in the U.S.:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bars employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of sex, including pregnancy. This means that an employer cannot treat a pregnant employee worse than they treat a non-pregnant employee who is similar in their ability or inability to work.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act may require an employer to provide an employee with a “reasonable accommodation” if the employee’s pregnancy-related condition counts as a disability under the law.
Information That Might Help if You Work in Pennsylvania
  • The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act prohibits employers with four or more employees from discriminating on the basis of sex, including pregnancy. It is similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
  • Depending on the size of the employer and its location in Pennsylvania, the law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of pregnancy, child birth, or a related medical condition.
  • An employee may also be entitled to a reasonable accommodation in the workplace due to pregnancy, child birth, or a related medical condition.
Information for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh workers AND Some Who Work in Other PA Locations
  • Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and some other localities have ordinances that prohibit sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination, in employment.
  • Philadelphia also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees.
    • Learn more about the rights of pregnant workers in Philadelphia.
    • Learn more about Paid Sick Leave in Philadelphia.
  • Pittsburgh also requires reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees who work for the city or through city contracts.
Pumping at Work

Do you need to pump breastmilk at work? 

Under federal law (applies in all states), if your employer is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, they must accommodate some women who want to pump breast milk in the workplace. You may be covered by this law if you are an hourly employee.

If you are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, your employer must provide:

  • “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has a need to express the milk”; and
  • “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

What can you do if the law applies to you but your employer is not letting you take pumping breaks in a private place? You may file a complaint with U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Some local ordinances offer additional rights relating to pumping at work.

 Philadelphia employees have rights, even if they are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

  • What must a Philadelphia employer do? A Philadelphia employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s need to pump breast milk as long as the accommodation does not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.
  • What is a reasonable accommodation? Reasonable accommodations include: providing unpaid break time, allowing an employee to use paid break, mealtime, or both to express milk, and providing a private, sanitary space that is not a bathroom where an employee can express milk.

What can do if I work in Philadelphia? You may file a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Complaints must be filed with the Commission within 300 days of the last act of discrimination.

Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

Do you need time off from work because you or a family member is ill? Are you about to have a baby or to adopt a child?

Government Information and Resources on Family and Medical Leave
Other Resources for Family and Medical Leave
Local Communities and Paid Sick Leave

In many communities, workers have additional rights. Visit the website of your local commission on human relations to learn more.

  • Philadelphia has a law requiring PAID sick leave for workers.It can also be used to care for a family member or to handle domestic violence or sexual assault. Visit the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to learn more.
Philadelphia Area Resources on Paid Sick Leave
Allegheny County Resources

Neighborhood Legal Services Association

Do You Need Time Off From Work to Handle Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault?

If you work in Philadelphia, you have a right to take paid or unpaid leave for these purposes.  Visit the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to learn more about unpaid leave.  Call the Commission at 215-686-4670 to learn about paid leave.

Criminal Records and Employment

Is your criminal record making it hard to find work?

Ban the Box
  • Philadelphia has a law known as Ban the Box, which makes it illegal in Philadelphia for employers to ask about criminal backgrounds during the job application process.
  • Want to see a criminal record? Go to the Common Pleas Docket Sheets and click on “Participant Name.”
Getting Your Record Expunged