Pennsylvania Human Relations Act only for Pa. residents, judge rules

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The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act does not provide protection to people who do not live or work in Pennsylvania, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled this month.

In the case of Blackman v. Lincoln National, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found the PHRA does not apply to plaintiff Kathy Blackman, who lived in Illinois and worked in the Illinois office of Lincoln National Corp. and Lincoln Financial Group, companies with headquarters in Radnor, Pa.

Ms. Blackman initiated proceedings against the two companies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over allegations of age and sex discrimination after she was demoted.

When she was later fired, she exhausted her administrative remedies and sued her former employers for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the PHRA.

Judge Surrick said the section of the PHRA relevant to Ms. Blackman's suit was silent as to whether it applies to nonresidents not working in Pennsylvania. He then looked at other sections of the statute in which it stated the intent of the PHRA was to protect "the inhabitants of" and "the people of the commonwealth."

"When we construe the whole statute ... we are satisfied that the PHRA does not protect individuals like [Ms. Blackman] who neither reside nor work in Pennsylvania," Judge Surrick said.

He noted the statute is not clear as to whether it meant to protect only those who live in Pennsylvania or those who also work in the state but live outside of the state.

He noted that he did not need to decide that issue for this case, given Ms. Blackman did not live or work in Pennsylvania, but he hinted that leaving that question unanswered could create another dilemma.

Alexander Nemiroff of Jackson Lewis in Philadelphia represented Lincoln National and Lincoln Financial.

He declined comment on pending litigation.

Stephen G. Console, Caren N. Gurmankin and Laura C. Mattiacci of Console Law Offices represented Ms. Blackman. The firm could not be reached for comment.

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Gina Passarella: 215-557-2494 or gpassarella@alm.com. To read more articles like this, visit www.thelegalintelligencer.com.


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