Author: Beth P. Zoller, XpertHR Legal Editor

Philadelphia has enacted a new ordinance expanding the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals (LGBTs) in the workplace, which may significantly affect employment policies and practices. Although the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance already prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in employment opportunities, public accommodations and housing, this new ordinance provides LGBT individuals with some of the greatest protections and benefits in the United States. It also imposes specific requirements on City of Philadelphia (City) employers.

Specifically, the ordinance:

  • Amends various sections of the Philadelphia City Code to provide for the equal treatment of all persons in Philadelphia regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Requires the use of gender neutral terms, such as "parent/legal guardian" instead of "mother" and "father," in certain City forms and websites;
  • Defines the terms "life partner" and "life partnership" and extends protections, rights and benefits to life partners;
  • Provides a tax credit to incentivize employers to provide health benefits to same-sex partners;
  • Provides a tax credit to incentivize employers that make health coverage available for medical costs associated with gender transitioning;
  • Makes it easier for transgender individuals to request name changes and gender changes on relevant forms and records;
  • Allows individuals to dress in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity;
  • Provides for gender-neutral restrooms in City-controlled buildings; and
  • Removes transgender discrimination from employee health plans for City workers.

As a result of this ordinance, Philadelphia employers should make sure to review and revise their policies and practices so that they are compliant. All Philadelphia employers should make sure to implement a zero-tolerance policy preventing discrimination and harassment against employees and applicants based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Employers should make sure to provide training to all supervisors and employees that discrimination and harassment against LGBT individuals will not be tolerated. Further, private and City employers should review and revise their policies and practices regarding employee leave, benefits, health care, restrooms and dress codes to the extent that they are impacted by the new ordinance. Employers should take special care to see that transgender individuals or individuals who are in transition are provided with the proper accommodations with respect to medical coverage, name changes, restrooms and dress codes.

Additional Resources

Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Transgender Status in the Workplace

Transgender Employees and Applicants in the Workplace

How to Prevent Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

How to Prevent Discrimination Against Transgender, Transsexual or Cross-Dressing Employees in the Workplace

How to Deal With a Complaint of Sexual Orientation Discrimination