Business, Academic, Non-Profit Coalition Announces Support to Update Pennsylvania’s 1955 Nondiscrimination Law

Posted on August 26, 2015

Harrisburg, Pa. (August 26, 2015) – Pennsylvania employers from across the state have joined academic institutions and non-profit organizations in signing a pledge of support for comprehensive nondiscrimination practices in the workplace.

The pledge, in part, states: “As employers of thousands of Pennsylvanians in every region of the state, we believe the best way to foster and support a growing economy is to attract the best and brightest talent to work in the Keystone State. Successful businesses across the nation understand the importance of fostering a workplace that is welcoming to all people. We believe updating Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law will make the state a stronger economic competitor in attracting the highly skilled millennial workforce.”

The coalition announcement coincides with the introduction today of House Bill 1510 / Senate Bill 974 – known as the Pennsylvania Fairness Act – and will update the current nondiscrimination law, originally written in 1955, to ensure that sexual orientation, gender identity and expression cannot be used as the basis of discrimination. The bills carry broad bi-partisan support among members of the General Assembly and are co-sponsored by Senators Pat Browne (R) and Larry Farnese (D) in the state Senate and Representatives Dan Frankel (D) and Tom Killion (R) in the state House of Representatives.

“Pennsylvania Competes applauds the leadership of Senators Browne and Farnese and Representatives Frankel and Killion in bringing forth a necessary piece of legislation that will make a tremendous difference in Pennsylvania winning when it competes to attract a talented workforce for key economic development projects,” said Jen Branstetter, Pennsylvania Competes.

A recent survey of Pennsylvania residents showed that 73 percent incorrectly believed discrimination against gay and transgender individuals in the workplace and in housing and business services is already illegal. The same study found 78 percent of Pennsylvanians support updating the current Human Relations Act to include protections for gay and transgender individuals.

“An inclusive Pennsylvania is a more economically vibrant Pennsylvania,” said David E. Black, President and CEO, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, and member of the Pennsylvania Competes business coalition. “This legislation will help Pennsylvania attract a talented workforce and will make Pennsylvania a location of choice for entrepreneurs and companies to locate and expand their businesses and the jobs that come with them.”

Additional economic development organizations that support updating Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law include Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Technology Council, and, the York County Economic Alliance.

All 23 Fortune 500 companies located in Pennsylvania have sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression nondiscrimination policies.

Additional members of the Pennsylvania Competes coalition commented:

“Dow’s employees are our greatest asset. That is why inclusion is simply the right thing to do as both a matter of fairness and as a business imperative,” said Peter Gudritz, senior manager for state government affairs, The Dow Chemical Company. “Dow is committed to working with the public and private sectors in Pennsylvania to ensure the state remains welcoming and economically competitive. This is why we strongly support the Pennsylvania Fairness Act.”

“Pennsylvania businesses are engaged in a highly competitive war for talent,” said Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. “This legislation not only provides basic protections for our employees, but it also showcases Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth that is serious about attracting the world’s most diverse and creative workforce.”

“We fully support workforce inclusion and believe it to be essential to caring for our patient population,” said Gregory Peaslee, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, UPMC. “This legislation will offer additional protection for our diverse workforce, and it will ensure that employers within the state, as well as UPMC, continue to consider the most qualified and talented candidates for career opportunities.  We continually strive toward creating a collaborative and inclusive culture in which our employees can learn, grow, develop and thrive.”

“As the president of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s community college, I see the Pennsylvania Fairness Act advancing our education and training efforts to ensure all of our 20,000 students, including our LGBT students, avoid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Dr. John ‘Ski’ Sygielski, President, Harrisburg Area Community College. “Discrimination against these students should be forbidden in the same way we currently prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, national origin, or disability. By approving this legislation, Pennsylvania can be assured that it will be able to attract and maintain a rich and diverse employment pool of individuals. This pool of talent – including many LGBT individuals who graduated from HACC – will be critical in replacing those who are retiring and staffing those businesses being created on a daily basis.”

The current Human Relations Act includes the following categories of individuals as protected against discrimination: race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin and disability.

Supporters are working with Pennsylvania Competes, a 501(c)4 formed to support the positive economic impact that will be realized with passage of House Bill 1510 / Senate Bill 974. Pennsylvania Competes supports the growth of Pennsylvania’s economy by ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have equal protections in the workplace, housing, and business and government services.

The growing coalition of members who have signed the nondiscrimination pledge include a wide range of industries and non-profits as well as academic institutions across the state. Members include: Adams Electric Cooperative, Gettysburg; Alcoa, Pittsburgh; the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh; Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh; the Campbell Soup Company, Camden, N.J.; Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Harrisburg; Clark-McKibben, Erie; Cozen O’Connor, Philadelphia; the Dow Chemical Company, Collegeville; Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership; EverPower, Pittsburgh; Glatfelter Insurance Group, York; Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce; Harrisburg Area Community College; Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC; Hefren-Tillotson, Inc., Pittsburgh; The Hershey Company; Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, Harrisburg; Lifland et al Bookmakers, Williamsport; McCormick Taylor, Harrisburg; Merck, Upper Gwynedd; Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Harrisburg; Pfizer, Collegeville; Pittsburgh Technology Council; PNC, Pittsburgh; Quandel, Harrisburg; Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association, Harrisburg; Ridge Policy Group, Harrisburg; Tierney, Philadelphia; UPMC, Pittsburgh; WC Press, West Chester; York County Economic Alliance, York.

The Pennsylvania Competes website – – provides more information and includes the list of members of the growing coalition in support of ending discrimination in Pennsylvania.

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Contact:     Lynn Lawson, Pennsylvania Competes




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