Who is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission?
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission enforces commonwealth laws that prohibit discrimination: the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which encompasses employment, housing, commercial property, education and public accommodations; and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act, which is specific to postsecondary education and secondary vocational and trade schools.
In general, the law prohibits discrimination based on race; color; religious creed; ancestry; age (40 and over); sex; national origin; familial status (only in housing); handicap or disability and the use, handling or training of support or guide animals for disability. Retaliation for filing a complaint, opposing unlawful behavior or assisting investigations is also illegal.
The law also empowers the commission to track incidents of bias that may cause community tension and to educate the general public, law enforcement, educators and government officials in order to prevent discrimination and foster equal opportunity.
The commission consists of administrative, legal and investigative staff, overseen by an executive director in Harrisburg and regional directors in Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Eleven commissioners, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, act as public liaisons, set policies to be implemented by staff and resolve some cases that are not settled voluntarily. The commission is independent and nonpartisan, with no more than six commissioners from one political party. The commission chairperson is appointed by the governor, and a vice-chairperson, secretary and assistant secretary are elected by commissioners each year.
The commission holds monthly public meetings around the commonwealth and invites the public to address issues of discrimination or civil tension in their communities at the meetings. Find the PHRC public meeting schedule here.
PHRC Advisory Councils, located in seven counties, act as liaisons in local communities and work to raise public awareness of civil rights issues. Find PHRC Advisory Council public meeting schedules here.