On December 6, 2021, then-mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, signed legislation amending the city’s workplace antidiscrimination ordinance to include victims of domestic violence as a protected class. Under the amended ordinance, employers with five or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on their actual or perceived status as victims of domestic violence and must attempt to reasonably accommodate such individuals, if needed. The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, which is tasked with enforcing the ordinance, also established and released employer guidance, shedding more light on these new requirements.
Under the ordinance and its accompanying guidance, an employer (including an employment agency or labor union) may not refuse to hire, treat less favorably, or deny a person employment, membership, or participation in a program based on his or her status as a survivor of domestic violence. In addition, an employer may not retaliate against an individual for seeking protection under the ordinance or implement policies that disproportionately impact employees based on their protected status.
Notably, the guidance also requires employers to engage in an interactive process with employees who need reasonable accommodations based on their status as domestic violence victims. Examples of potential reasonable accommodations, according to the guidance, include the following:
- Modifying the layout of a workspace
- Adjusting work schedules
- Allowing for leave (e.g., for a court date or medical appointment)
- Enhancing policies to ensure security
- Transfer or reassignment
- Changing a telephone number or email
- Installing a lock or security device
- Developing code words to allow employees to safely signal a need for help, such as security or police
An employer need not grant a specific accommodation if doing so would impose an undue hardship on its financial or administrative operations.
The guidance warns that “it can be harmful for the employer to demand ‘proof’” of an individual’s status as a survivor of domestic violence, and the guidance is silent as to whether an employer may request supporting documentation (e.g., police or court records) in response to a request for leave. An employer may document the information provided by the employee during the reasonable accommodation interactive process.