1. What is discrimination?
Discrimination, by definition, means an unfair treatment of a person or group and involves the exclusion or restriction of members of one group from opportunities available to others. The law protects you from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and services based on
- sexual orientation
- gender identity or expression
- familial status (housing)
- handicap or disability
- national origin
- place of birth
- handicap or disability
- status as a survivor of domestic violence (housing)
- pregnancy/partners of pregnant persons (employment)
- citizenship and immigration status (housing and public accommodations)
- preferred language (housing and public accommodations)
2. How do I know if I have been discriminated against?
Discrimination is rarely obvious. If you are not sure if you have been wrongfully treated because of your membership in a protected group, contact the PghCHR office. The PghCHR is available to answer any questions and provide you with relevant information concerning discriminatory practices.
3. Who may file a complaint with the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations?
Any person, group of persons or organization(s) claiming to be harmed by an alleged unlawful discriminatory act within the City of Pittsburgh may file a complaint. Complaints must be filed within one year from the date of the alleged unlawful act. There is no charge for filing a complaint with the Commission on Human Relations.
4. Where do I file a complaint if I do not live in the City of Pittsburgh?
- Housing discrimination complaints may be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Employment discrimination complaints may be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- If you live in Allegheny County, please contact the Allegheny County Human Relations Commission (412) 350-6945.
- Pennsylvania residents may also file with the Pennsylvania State Human Relations Commission.
5. How long do I have to file a complaint?
You have one year (365 days) from the date of harm or violation of your rights to file a complaint with the PghCHR.
6. Do I need an attorney to file a complaint?
You do not need an attorney to file a complaint with the PghCHR. The decision to have an attorney represent you is entirely up to you.
7. What happens when I file a complaint?
- If the alleged discrimination has taken place within the City of Pittsburgh, the complaint will be filed, docketed and served.
- An investigator will contact you to schedule an intake meeting and have you complete a questionnaire. It is important to provide the correct names, titles, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses involved and of all persons who are believed to have acted in the alleged discrimination. Please provide any documentation that supports the claims made.
- The investigator will complete further research regarding the complaint and contact the respondent with a notice of discrimination. The respondent will have 10 to 30 days to write a response to the complaint. The investigator then determines whether or not the alleged complaint violates anti-discrimination laws.
- If there is probable cause, a Fact Finding conference may be held. Both parties are brought together in a neutral setting to define the areas of dispute and to attempt conciliation. If a settlement is reached at the conference, the Commission Representative will recommend to the Commission’s Compliance Review Section that the case should be closed due to a satisfactory adjustment.
8. What if the Commission Representative determines that there is no basis of discrimination in my complaint?
You will receive a written notification in the mail stating that your case has been closed due to lack of probable cause. You or your attorney has the right to file a request for review with the Commission, an opportunity to appear before the Commission, a member or representative. The Commission may then decide to reverse their initial decision or issue a final dismissal with no further review.
9. What if the respondent denies allegations I have presented to the PghCHR?
If conciliation efforts are not met, your case will be scheduled for a private meeting. At this meeting you, the respondent, a Commission Representative and a Commissioner will discuss specific findings of discrimination and attempt to resolve the complaint on the basis of facts and evidence presented by each party. If a settlement is reached at the private meeting, the Commission Representative will recommend a closure. In instances where the respondent refuses to negotiate a settlement, your case may be heard at a public hearing.
10. What can the Commission do if they find discrimination?
If, after an investigation, the Commission finds that an unlawful, discriminatory act may have taken place, it tries to resolve the complaint. This may be achieved by having all parties to the complaint attend a conference where each party has an opportunity to tell their side or by means of conciliation and persuasion. If the attempts at resolving the problem are unsuccessful, the case is scheduled for a public hearing.
11. What is a public hearing?
A public hearing is a formal judicial process at which all parties of a complaint are present. The parties may be represented by an attorney, if they choose. Evidence is presented and testimony is taken under oath, in much the same way as in a court trial. The public hearing is presided over by one or more Commissioners who are responsible for reviewing the evidence and testimony and then issuing a decision.
If it is determined that, indeed, one of the parties has engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice, the Commission issues an order for that party to cease such practice and to provide remedies which will help resolve the harm which resulted in the initial complaint being filed. A Commission order is fully enforceable and may be appealed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
12. What are some remedies which may be ordered by the Commission?
In employment cases, potential remedies may include repayment of lost wages or benefits, as well as reimbursement for reasonable attorney fees. The complainant is also eligible for admission to or restoration of membership in any labor organization and reinstatement, promotion or transfer to the position being sought.
In housing cases, potential remedies may include the purchase, rental or lease of the home or apartment sought, upon equal terms, conditions, facilities, services and privileges. The respondent is also responsible for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and compensation for reasonable attorney fees owed to the complainant.
In public accommodation cases, the complainant may receive the advantages, facilities, services, privileges, product or goods of the respondent’s place of service or recreation. The complainant is also at liberty to receive payment of verifiable and reasonable personal expenses, and other legal, affirmative or equitable actions determined by the Commission.
13. What is the difference between "Human Resources" and "Human Relations?"
"Human Resources" is another term for personnel -- the people who work for an employer. Many organizations view their employees as "resources" needed to accomplish the goals and objectives of their organization. Therefore, they changed their organizational framework from "personnel" to "human resources."
“Human Relations" is a term referring to the relationships with or between people and groups, particularly in a professional setting. In reference to state or local government, human relation departments are responsible for promoting fair treatment and equal opportunity as well as enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations is not a human resource department and strictly deals with cases of discrimination.
14. What is the Analysis of Impediments (AI) to Fair Housing Choice study?
The Analysis of Impediments (AI) to Fair Housing Choice is a review of impediments or barriers that affect the rights and opportunities of residents to select housing. Impediments to fair housing choice are defined as any actions, omissions, or decisions that restrict, or have the effect of restricting, the availability of housing choices based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, or sexual orientation (specific to the City of Pittsburgh). The AI serves as the basis for fair housing planning, provides essential information to policy makers, administrative staff, housing providers, lenders, and fair housing advocates, and assists in building public sector support for fair housing efforts.
The AI includes a review of state and local laws and policies, an assessment of how these laws affect housing, an evaluation of public and private conditions affecting housing choice, and an assessment of the availability of affordable and accessible units.
As an “entitlement community” under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), the City of Pittsburgh must “affirmatively further fair housing.” In order to “affirmatively further fair housing,” HUD requires each entitlement community to conduct a Fair Housing Analysis to identify any impediments to fair housing choice.
15. How long after adjudication can I access my case file?
Records pertaining to discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations are typically kept for a minimum of eight years. However, cases that have gone to public hearing are kept indefinitely. If you would like to request a copy of your case file, please contact the Commission at (412) 255-2600 or at email@example.com You may also complete the City's Right to Know request form. For more information on Pittsburgh's Right to Know policies, please visit the website here.
16. Where can I find the Commission's Rules & Regulations?
17. Where can I find the part of the Pittsburgh City Code that applies to the Commission?
There are many sections of the Pittsburgh City Code which pertain specifically to Fair Practice. To read these sections, go to our online version of the Pittsburgh City Code, located at Municode.com.
Tips for using the HTML version of the code:
1. On the Municode.com website, click on the link for Pittsburgh, PA Code of Ordinances
2. In the left-side navigation bar, double-click on the folder icon before Title VI: Conduct.
3. Next, double-click on the small folder before Article V: Discrimination.
4. Then, double-click on the small folder before the chapter that you would like to read.
5. Finally, double-click on the small page graphic before the chapter section that you would like to read.