Who is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission?
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, or PHRC, enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination: the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which covers discrimination in 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.
PHRC also investigates employment discrimination complaints on behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, and housing discrimination complaints on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. These partnerships protect the rights of complainants under both state and federal law.
The law also empowers the commission to educate the general public, law enforcement, educators and government officials in order to prevent discrimination and foster equal opportunity, and to address indidents of bias that may lead to community tension between racial, ethnic and other groups.
PHRC has 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, establish policies 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 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, inviting the public to address issues of discrimination or civil tension in their communities. PHRC Public Meeting Schedule.
PHRC Advisory Councils act as liaisons in local communities and work to raise public awareness of civil rights issues. PHRC Advisory Council Meeting Schedules.