Under the Constitution, the United States Congress and its Supreme Court are the final authority where civil rights laws of any kind are concerned.
However, states are permitted to enact their own such laws, provided that they do not curtail any rights granted under federal law.
In other words, states may not eliminate protections provided under federal civil rights laws such as Title VII, but can provide additional protection to groups not protected thereunder.
The PHRA Protects Employees of Smaller Companies
Both Title VII and the PHRA make workplace discrimination based upon age, sex, race, religious beliefs, national origin or disability unlawful.
However, while Title VII prohibits such discrimination only by companies employing 15 or more workers, PHRA applies to employers with 4 or more workers.
So, a Pennsylvania employee who works for a company that that has 8 workers can sue for discrimination under PHRA, but not under Title VII.
Title VII Limits and Caps the Amount of Compensatory and Punitive Damages a Plaintiff Employee May Recover
In addition, Title VII differs from PHRA in that it places substantial limitations on the amount of compensatory and punitive damages an employee can recover based upon the size of the discriminating employer, why PHRA has no such limitations.
Individual Managers and Supervisors May be Sued and Held Liable Under PHRA, but not Title VII
Another difference is that, under Title VII, an individual supervisory employee or manager may not be sued, while under PHRA there can be individual liability upon decisionmakers who engaged in discriminatory conduct.
Plaintiffs Suing Under Title VII May Recover Punitive Damages, but Plaintiffs Suing Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act May Not
Finally, a person suing under Title VII may recover punitive damages, which are not available under PHRA.
Different (Shorter) Deadline for Filing a Charge Under PHRA as Compared to Title VII
You have only 180 days to file a Charge of Discrimination under PHRA; Title VII provides you with 300 days to do so.
Finally, Charges under Title VII are investigated by the EEOC, while Charges filed under PHRA are investigated by PHRA.
John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania.
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