Support for Nondiscrimination Legislation Grows to Historic Level of Nearly 1,000 PA Businesses

Posted On On: February 4, 2016 Categories Filed Under: Chamber News, Member News

Harrisburg, Pa. (Feb. 3, 2016) – Nearly 1,000 Pennsylvania employers, representing an estimated 150,000 employees, are calling on the General Assembly to pass the Pennsylvania Fairness Act to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression cannot be used as the basis of discrimination. Current state law allows Pennsylvanians to be fired or denied housing and business services solely on the basis of the person being gay or transgender. The coalition has significantly expanded since the legislation was introduced last August.

 

Citing their support for an inclusive workplace environment and the impact it has on their ability to attract and retain quality employees, small and large employers including academic institutions and non-profit organizations have joined in support of the PA Fairness Act (HB 1510 / SB 974).

 

The legislation will update the Human Relations Act – originally written in 1955 – to ensure that all citizens regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability, and – with passage of the PA Fairness Act – sexual orientation and gender identity and expression – can participate in the state’s economy.

 

“It’s the employees of First Generation who have made our success and growth possible for almost 30 years,” said Bill Carmody, CEO, First Generation, Allentown.  “To ensure that growth continues, I am committed to providing a welcoming and dynamic work environment for our employees. The Pennsylvania Fairness Act is legislation that must pass so that, once and for all, state law prevents discrimination against our colleagues or new employees who are gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual.”

Ending discrimination will ensure that all Pennsylvanians have equal protections in the workplace, housing and business services and will positively impact the ability of employers to attract talented employees and grow their businesses and the economy. In 15 years, more than 70 percent of the national workforce will be comprised of the millennial generation. Pennsylvania’s policies must support the reality of the economic marketplace and be positioned as a strong economic competitor in attracting the highly skilled millennial workforce or face the likely negative economic consequences.

Last summer, business news channel CNBC announced that the inclusion of LGBT antidiscrimination provisions in their annual ranking of America’s top states for business.

The legislation also has also been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® (PAR), who joined the coalition last week.  With more than 32,000 members, PAR is one of the largest associations in the state.

 

“Realtors® are bound by the National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics, which already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We believe it’s critical that Pennsylvania provides a housing and work environment free of discrimination,” said Todd Polinchock, PAR president.  “The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® is proud to stand with the hundreds of other organizations who support a law that affirms that the right to housing should not be hindered because of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

 

Additional employers who are members of the coalition supporting the PA Fairness Act include:  Alcoa, Pittsburgh; Campbell Soup Company, Camden, N.J.; Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Harrisburg; Dow Chemical Company, Collegeville; Drexel University, Philadelphia; GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia; Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC, Harrisburg; Highmark, Pittsburgh; McCormick Taylor, Harrisburg; Merck, Upper Gwynedd; Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey; Penn State University, State College; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Harrisburg; Pfizer, Collegeville; PNC, Pittsburgh; The Hershey Company, Hershey; Tierney, Philadelphia; UPMC, Pittsburgh; small businesses include Clark-McKibben, Erie; Lifland et al., Bookmakers, Williamsport; McGinnis Sisters, Monroeville; and, Quandel, Harrisburg. A full list of the nearly 1,000 employers can be found here.

“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.”

The PA Fairness Act has broad bi-partisan support among more than 100 members of the General Assembly and is 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.

 

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 and 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters indicate that they have a family member, friend, someone they are close to, or a close work colleague who is gay or lesbian. Among senior citizens, 72 percent indicate that they are close to someone who is gay or lesbian.

 

Economic development organizations that support updating Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law and who represent thousands of member employers, include the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Pittsburgh Technology Council, and, the York County Economic Alliance.

“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.”

 

“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.”

 

All 18 Fortune 500 companies located in Pennsylvania have sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression nondiscrimination policies.

 

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.

 

Visit www.pacompetes.org to learn about the Pennsylvania Fairness Act and the bipartisan coalition of business and academic leaders who support a Pennsylvania free from discrimination.

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