is one of more than 3.7 million unmarried adults who live in
Pennsylvania -- a state where 49 percent of the households are
headed up by single people.
Kiki has a single focus these
days. She is upset that Pennsylvania Human Relations Act,
which was originally enacted on October 27, 1955, does not
prohibit discrimination on the basis of "marital status."
statute does forbid employers and landlords from discriminating
on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age,
sex, national origin, and disability.
of "marital status" from Pennsylvania's laws regulating fair
employment and fair housing practices has been bothering Kiki
for more than 10 years. That's when she launched a
campaign to amend the law to fill this legal gap which leaves
millions of single people vulnerable to the personal prejudices
of employers and landlords.
always lived in Pennsylvania. For many years she lived in
neighboring New York state where she worked as a secretary,
administrative assistant, and bookkeeper -- all which
outstanding performance evaluations.
moved to Pennsylvania and started going on job interviews, Kiki
noticed that something was different. Prospective
employers started questioning her about her personal life,
specifically asking Kiki whether she was married and whether she
had children at home.
never happened to her in New York. Maybe that's because
New York is one of 20 states with fair employment laws that
prohibit "marital status" discrimination in employment.
search in Pennsylvania was more than she could tolerate.
In 18 of 20 interviews, the focus either started with or soon
shifted to the fact that Kiki was unmarried and had two teenage
kids at home.
employers came right out and said that they would not hire an
unmarried woman, especially a single mom. How could they
be so brazen?
found out. Pennsylvania law not only allows employers to
question applicants about their marital status, it permits them
to favor married employees and to discriminate against unmarried
applied for a position at a manufacturing company, the first
question asked of her was "You married?" Caught off guard,
Kiki meekly disclosed that she was not.
along, the next question was "Got any kids?" Sensing that
a trap was being laid, Kiki nevertheless advised the boss that
she had two teenagers.
was immediately halted when Kiki was told "I'm not interested in
hiring you." The boss explained that "women with kids take too
much time off work so that's why I don't hire them." He
indicated that he was not interested in checking her superior
attendance record with former employers, telling Kiki "you're
all the same."
more interviews demonstrated a clear pattern that employers
seemed more interested in her personal life than her business
experience, Kiki vowed that the next time the question about
marital status was raised, she would refuse to answer. So
when it happened during the next interview, she stuck to her
guns and declined to respond. The interview was terminated
into the wound, one employer -- a lawyer -- said that if he did
hire her that her hourly rate of pay would be affected by her
marital status. Less pay for unmarried women, of course.
explained that he likes to hire married women because he saves
money. He does not have to provide health benefits to the
married women in his office because they all have health
benefits provided through their husband's place of employment.
So if he were to hire Kiki, her wages would be reduced by the
amount he would have to pay for her health benefits.
Kiki went to
the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to complain about
this clear and open pattern of marital status discrimination.
Although the commissioners and staff were sympathetic, there was
nothing the Commission could do unless the law was changed.
So in 1995
Kiki embarked on a campaign to add "marital status" to the Human
Relations Act. After several years of writing letters and
making phone calls to dozens of state legislators and other
elected officials, Kiki finally found a sponsor for the bill.
In the Spring
of 2001, Rep. Craig Dally (R-Nazareth) introduced a measure into
the Assembly. About 30 other legislators joined as
cosponsors of the bill which proposed outlawing discrimination
on the basis of "marital status" and "familial status."
The latter provision was intended to prevent employers from
discriminating against workers who have children at home.
and a companion measure in the state Senate both died in
committee the following year.
this defeat and years of frustration, Kiki is like the
"energizer bunny" -- she keeps going and going and going.
She was able to have new bills introduced into both houses of
the Legislature again this year.
HB 352, was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee which is
chaired by Rep. Dennis M. O'Brien. SB 440, a companion
bill introduced by Senator Jane Clare Orie is sitting in the
Senate Labor and Industry Committee which is chaired by Sen.
the fate of these bills lies with the chair of each committee.
They can either call the bills up for a hearing or kill them by
letting them languish.
Rising to the
challenge, Kiki has a marketing plan designed to convince Rep.
O'Brien and Sen. Scarnati to pay attention to these bills and to
move them forward.
If you live
in Pennsylvania, Kiki wants your help. If you have family
members or friends who live in Pennsylvania, Kiki wants their
2005 is the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Pennsylvania
Human Relations Act. Kiki is asking that people in
Pennsylvania -- whether they are married or unmarried -- send a
fax or e-mail or place a phone call to Rep. O'Brien and Sen.
Scarnati asking them to schedule these bills for a hearing.
She also wants people to contact their own legislators asking
them to press the committee chairs for hearings on these bills.
should include letters sent though the mail as another
recommended way to communicate with Sen. Scarnati and Rep.
O'Brien. Letters could include the box top from a package
of tea bags along with a note protesting "taxation without
could be reminded that millions of single people are paying
taxes to support the daily operations of the state Human
Relations Commission. And yet, if these unmarried
taxpayers go to the Commission's office with a complaint about
marital status discrimination, the agency staff can't lift a
finger to help them.
bag gimmick worked in Massachusetts to raise public attention to
to an injustice over 200 years ago. Perhaps it could stir things up this year in
Senate Box 203025
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3025
100 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2020
Fax: (717) 787-1339
to find your own legislator in Pennsylvania.
Unmarried America 2005
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and