Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Adopted In Haverford Township

At its February 14, 2011 Board of Commissioners' meeting, Haverford Township in Delaware County, PA, adopted a new anti-discrimination ordinance, which provides broader protections against employment and other types of discrimination than the current federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

Like Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the new Haverford Ordinance prohibits employment discrimination within the Township on the traditional bases of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability and the use of a support animal.

Unlike its federal and state counterparts, however, the new Haverford Township Ordinance also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The term "gender identity" is defined as "the gender(s), or lack thereof, a person self-identifies as, whether or not based on biological fact or sexual orientation." The term "gender expression," refers to "the manner in which a person's identity is communicated or perceived by others, through appearance, behavior, or physical characteristics that may be in accord with, or opposed to, one's physical anatomy, chromosomal sex, or sex at birth, and shall include, but is not limited to, persons who are undergoing or have completed sex change."

The prohibitions on employment discrimination under the new Ordinance encompass all those employer actions that are currently prohibited by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (which, in turn, takes most of its prohibited practices from the federal case law that has developed under Title VII), against any of the protected classes listed above.

The Haverford Township Anti-Discrimination Ordinance applies to every employer that has four or more employees within the Township.

This Ordinance also establishes an 11-member Human Relations Commission for Haverford Township, which is charged with enforcing the provisions of the Ordinance. The Commission has the authority to order affirmative action by an employer to correct or compensate for employment discrimination, such as ordering back pay, the hiring, promotion or reinstatement of an aggrieved employee, and the making of reasonable accommodations. The Commission may also assess a civil penalty against any employer who violates this Ordinance up to a maximum amount of $5,000.00, along with an award of attorneys' fees to a successful employee. Attorneys fees for an employer who prevails in any complaint made against it under this Ordinance may also seek attorneys fees, but only if it can prove that the complaint was brought in bad faith. Any order of the Human Relations Commission is appealable to the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County.

If you are an employer in Haverford Township with four or more employees, or if you work for an employer in Haverford Township with four or more employees, and want to discuss your rights or obligations under this new Ordinance, please call the law office of Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C., at 484-842-0363 or 610-565-3700, to speak with Michael Davey, Esq..