COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS

About PghCHR


What is the PghCHR's Mission Statement?

The PghCHR is a civil rights organization focused on investigating instances of discrimination, providing outreach and education to communities about their rights, and recommending necessary protections in our City Code to provide all people in Pittsburgh with equal opportunities. Our goal is to decrease unfair treatment and discrimination by promoting justice and understanding among communities in the City of Pittsburgh. 


Where does the PghCHR gets its authority?

The PghCHR is an independent Commission that enforces and ensures civil rights protections within the City of Pittsburgh. Sections 216 through 218 of Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter established the PghCHR,  and Title 6, Article V, Chapters 651 through 659, of the Pittsburgh City Code further detail and outline the PghCHR’s authority, as well as civil and human rights protections within the City. Additionally, per contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC), the PghCHR enforces federal anti-discrimination law in housing and employment.

The Commission consists of 15 volunteer Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council. The Commissioners serve four-year terms.


Who works for the PghCHR?

The Commission employs an Executive Director and staff to carry out its mission and functions. They are:

Jam Hammond, Interim Director

Wesley Speary, Deputy Director

Rachel Shepherd, Fiscal and Contracting Coordinator

Emily Costello, Investigator

Christopher Soult, Investigator

Rita Porterfield, Investigator

Kevin Carroll, Administrative Assistant

Tyler Viljaste, Intern and Fellow

Saunders Ruffin, AmeriCorps VISTA

Beth Anne Patterson, Legal Extern


What are the Civil and Human Rights protected by the City Code?

Per Chapter 659 of the of the Pittsburgh City Code, it is unlawful to discriminate in the following areas on the outlined bases:

Employment

Housing

Public Accommodations

City Services Provided by a City Employee

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Age (over 40)
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Place of birth
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Handicap or disability
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions and events
  • Hairstyles and protective and cultural hair textures and hairstyles
  • Retaliation
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Familial status
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Place of birth
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Handicap,  disability, or use of a support animal
  • Status as a survivor of domestic violence
  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • Preferred language
  • Hairstyles and protective and cultural hair textures and hairstyles
  • Retaliation
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Place of birth
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Handicap,  disability, or use of a support animal
  • Citizenship or immigration status
  • Preferred language
  • Hairstyles and protective and cultural hair textures and hairstyles
  • Retaliation
  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Place of birth
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Handicap,  disability, or use of a support animal

 

 


What are the Powers and Duties of the PghCHR?

The PghCHR investigates complaints of alleged discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and the provision of City services within the City of Pittsburgh.  The PghCHR can initiate its own complaints against persons and entities who appear to have committed civil and human rights violations within the City. The PghCHR also investigates any conditions having an adverse effect on intergroup relations within the city. For over 65 years, the PghCHR has successfully resolved issues of unfair and discriminatory practices in Pittsburgh.

In addition to reviewing the findings and recommendations of staff, the PghCHR may:

  • Hold confidential mediation/conciliation meetings;
  • Approve and enter into mediation/conciliation agreements;
  • Hold private factfinding meetings;
  • Require the production of evidence and, if necessary, subpoena evidence;
  • Interview witnesses and, if necessary, subpoena witnesses and compel their attendance; and
  • Hold public hearings that can result in:
    • Findings of fact;
    • Lawfully enforceable orders; and
    • Publication of findings of fact and orders.

When probable cause is found that someone has been unlawfully discriminated against, the Commission will schedule a mandatory meeting (also referred to as a mediation, conciliation, or private meeting) with the parties to try to get the parties to reach an agreed upon resolution. If that meeting is unsuccessful, then the Commission will schedule the case for a public hearing.

If the evidence (or lack of evidence) does not support a finding of probable cause, the case will be closed.  Under the Pittsburgh City Code, Chapter 655.04, and Rule 13 of the Commission's Rules and Regulations, either party may request reconsideration of the Commission's determination.  To do so, a party must notify the Commission in writing within ten (10) calendar days of receipt of the letter notifying the party that the case has been closed.


How is the PghCHR structured?

The PghCHR is divided into two sections: the Compliance Review Section (CRS) and the Public Hearing Section (PHS). Commissioners are appointed to sections by the PghCHR Chairperson, and no Commissioner may serve concurrently in both Sections.

  • The CRS reviews case determinations and recommendations by PghCHR staff regarding probable cause, lack of probable cause, and approval of conciliation agreements. By majority vote, the CRS will approve or disapprove of determinations and recommendations.
  • After a determination of probable cause, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, the PHS conducts public hearings and renders the Commission’s final decisions regarding cases.

What else does the PghCHR do?

 The further its mission and commitment to equity and equality, the PghCHR does, among other things, the following:

  • Conduct community education, training, and other outreach programs for schools, community groups, businesses, professional organizations, and City departments in order to promote fairness, equity, and equal rights and opportunities for all who work in, live in, or visit our city. 
  • Conduct and contract for studies and reports regarding discrimination related issues within the City.
  • Share information with the public regarding resources provided by other organizations and entities.
  • Draft and propose amendments to the Pittsburgh City Code.
  • Draft and submit comments on proposed changes, creation, or elimination of federal rules and regulations.
  • Issue press releases on issues relating to civil and human rights.
  • Foster collaboration between and among other organizations and entities.

Rules and Regulations

Click here to view PghCHR's Rules and Regulations (as amended in March of 2020)


Applicable Sections of the Pittsburgh City Code

There are many sections of the Pittsburgh City Code which pertain specifically to Fair Practice.  To read those and other sections of the City Code, please go online the City of of Pittsburgh's Municipal Code.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 


PghCHR Goals

Click here to view our goals for 2020!


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Updated 12/2/2020