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Two little-known facts about our Human Relations Act

Under a wide variety of circumstances, including if you’re injured or become sick as a result of your work conditions, Pennsylvanians have broad protections in federal, state and sometimes local laws against discrimination and being wrongfully fired.

The familiar federal act that protects disability rights for all Americans gets a lot of attention, but Pennsylvania has a separate and in certain ways comparable law. To help you remember the Pennsylvania law that might someday have your back when you need it most, here are two striking and memorable features of our Human Relations Act (PHRA).

Disability can be physical or mental

When the PHRA prohibits employment or many other types of discrimination against people with a “handicap or disability,” it specifies that this includes people with a mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.

You don’t even necessarily have to prove you have such an impairment for the provision to apply, since the law also specifically prohibits discrimination against people for having had the mental impairment in the past or for being “regarded” as having the impairment.

Guide animals and support animals

Right alongside characteristics such race, religion, age and sex, the PHRA bans discrimination due to “the use of a guide or support animal because of … blindness, deafness or physical handicap.”

The law seems to limit this protection to people who use animals use for support due to physical handicaps, not due to mental or emotion health needs. On the other hand, note that it prohibits any housing or real estate discrimination, as when a landlord might want to charge extra for “pet” deposit.

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Marzzacco Niven & Associates

Marzzacco Niven & Associates
1909 North Front Street, 2nd Floor, Suite 1
Harrisburg, PA 17102

Toll Free: 866-321-5340
Phone: 717-260-3580
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