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Governor Wolf Urges Legislature to Support Workplace Protections Against Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

September 06, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today renewed his call for passage of a package of reforms he announced in April that will strengthen protections against sexual harassment and discrimination for employees, provide new legal options for victims and hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions. The House Labor and Industry Committee today held a second hearing on the legislative package.

“The #MeToo movement has encouraged many survivors to come forward and their strength must continue to change our workplaces and our culture,” said Governor Wolf. “Workplace discrimination or sexual harassment are unacceptable, and millions of Pennsylvania workers deserve this protection now, not more delays and studies. This is the time for action and I urge the legislature to pass these commonsense reforms, so I can sign them into law.”

The sexual harassment and discrimination protections proposals include:

  • Protect more workers: All employees should be protected, regardless of the size of the employer or the type of their job. Today, these protections are only given to those who work for an employer with at least four employees. Governor Wolf supports reducing the threshold to one employee and extending protections to independent contractors, interns, volunteers, full-time nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers. (HB 2280, Rep. Madden and HB 2282, Rep Rabb. Senate companion bills SB 1146, Sen. Farnese, SB 1148, Sen. Tartaglione and SB 1149, Sen. Williams)
  • Workplace training: No employee should experience harassment or discrimination This legislation requires trainings for employees and supervisors to prevent discrimination and harassment for all employees and employers must display discrimination and harassment protection rights in the workplace. (HB 2282, Rep. Rabb and HB 2283, Rep. D. Costa. Senate companion bill SB 1147, Sen. Fontana)

Legal system reforms:

  • Extend statute of limitations: Some victims and whistleblowers can be afraid to come forward. To encourage reporting, the amount of time victims have to file a discrimination or whistleblower complaint should be extended from only 180 days to two years. (HB 2286, Davidson and Senate companion bills SB 1150, Sen. Haywood and SB 1146, Sen. Farnese)
  • Right to a Jury Trial: Victims and whistleblowers should have the option for a jury to hear their case in state court. (HB 2284, Rep. O’Brien and HB 2286 Rep. Davidson. Senate companion bills SB 1150, Sen. Haywood and SB 1146, Sen. Farnese)
  • Punitive Damages: Pennsylvania, through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Whistleblower Law, should join other states, like New Jersey and Ohio, that allow victims and whistleblowers to seek punitive damages in workplace discrimination cases. (HB 2284, Rep. O’Brien and HB 2286, Rep, Davidson. Senate companion bills SB 1150, Sen. Haywood and SB 1146, Sen. Farnese)
  • Payment of Attorney Fees: Burdensome legal fees can discourage some victims from pursuing their case. Sexual harassment victims who win their case in state court should have the attorney fees paid by the defendant. (HB 2286, Rep. Davidson and Senate companion bill SB 1146, Sen. Farnese)

As part of the effort to reduce sexual harassment and support victims, the Wolf administration created a webpage about reporting workplace sexual harassment and providing information from victim’s rights groups.

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