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Employed in Philly? What You Need to Know about City Discrimination Laws

September 18, 2015 Workplace Discrimination

The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance offers protection you may not be aware of

Many people who work in the city of Philadelphia have no idea that they may be entitled to additional protection from discrimination on the job—sometimes even above and beyond what federal laws cover.

The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance (FPO) governs how various types of discrimination are handled under city law.

Let’s talk about what the FPO is and how it might pertain to you and your place of employment.

How Philly and the Feds Compare

Philadelphia discrimination laws and federal discrimination laws are similar in some respects, but they also diverge in some very meaningful ways.

In terms of employment discrimination, the FPO provides protection for all people who are employed in Philadelphia. Specifically, it protects against discrimination by former, current, and potential employers, as well as by labor unions and employment agencies.

For example, a person who was denied employment or a job advancement because of a specific characteristic could take legal action against the offending company.

Of course, the federal government also provides protection from employment discrimination based on certain categories and characteristics. Those include the following:




Sex, including pregnancy

National origin


Disabilities or perceived disabilities

Genetic information

People who complain about illegal discrimination or who participate in another person’s discrimination complaint are also protected from retaliation.

How City Law Differs

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency charged with enforcing federal discrimination laws, recently added sexual orientation to its list of protected categories, although in a somewhat indirect way. It stated that sexual orientation is automatically included under the same umbrella as sex discrimination.

However, Philadelphia beat the feds to the punch on sexual orientation. The FPO already included it as a protected category. In addition, the Philadelphia law also includes protection based on the following categories:

Ancestry, referring to the nation, country, tribe, or other identifiable group of people from which a person descends. This may also refer to the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of the person’s ancestors.

Domestic or sexual violence victim status, i.e., people who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Ethnicity or membership in a cultural group.

Familial status, referring to caregiving or support responsibilities a person may have to family members.

Gender identity as it relates someone’s self-identification as male or female, as well as others’ perceptions or interpretations of gender. This category also includes protection for transgender people (as specifically defined by the FPO here). 

Marital status as it pertains to assumptions about assumed characteristics of married or unmarried people.

For more information on who the Philadelphia FPO protects, visit the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations website.

What This Means to You

Unfortunately, despite local and federal laws, employment discrimination happens all too often. Philadelphia workers who don’t know their rights may feel that they’re left without recourse if they’ve been victims of discrimination.

That’s why it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who has experience fighting discrimination cases in Philadelphia.

Email us at or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation to find out more about your rights.