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11/22/2019 03:21 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20190&cosponId=28723
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: March 8, 2019 03:56 PM
From: Senator Lawrence M. Farnese, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Expanding the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
 
In the near future, I plan to reintroduce Senate Bill 1146 of the 2017-18 Session. Last year's co-sponsors include: FONTANA, HUGHES, COSTA, TARTAGLIONE, MENSCH, BREWSTER AND WILLIAMS. The legislation would provide several additional protections under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

This legislation is part of a multi-bill package intended to address the all-too-common workplace harassment employees face in the Commonwealth and nationally. The #MeToo movement has provided victims the opportunity to bring their stories forward and educate the public on the pervasiveness of this issue. Now is the time to turn this momentum into action to foster safe, equitable, and accountable workplaces where jobs and promotions are not leveraged for sexual favors or where people are shamed for their background or identity.

My proposal would expand the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act in several key areas. First, it would extend its application from employers with four employees to all employers with at least one employee. If enacted, Pennsylvania will join fifteen other states, including West Virginia, New Jersey and Hawaii, with this requirement.

Second, it will extend the statute of limitation for filing a complaint. This will give victims more time to come forward.

Third, it will include the right to a jury trial. This provision has been identified by victims’ advocates as one of the most important measures needed in Pennsylvania. The potential of a jury trial will encourage reform and best practices, facilitate early settlements, and make the claims of low-wage workers more likely to be taken by a lawyer.

Fourth, it will provide for punitive damages in cases of malice or reckless indifference. This is again very important in the case of low-wage workers, whose economic loss may be moderate but their pain and suffering is not. A punitive damage provision will address both the wrongfulness of the conduct and the harm caused to the victim.

Finally, it will provide a presumption of attorney’s fees. The availability of attorney’s fees is extremely important in situations where the victim might not have money to hire an attorney or the recoverable damages would not be enough to cover their costs. Providing a presumption of attorney’s fees will incentivize attorneys to take on these cases and allow victims to meaningfully pursue a remedy.



Introduced as SB490