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FAQ

Community Relations

What services do you provide?

The Community Relations Division handles most matters of intergroup conflict and neighborhood disputes within the City, and offers mediation, conciliation, counseling, and referral services for individuals and households in conflict.

Who is eligible to request your services?

Anyone living or working in the City of Philadelphia may request our services.

Can I remain anonymous?

Unfortunately you may not. In order to promote harmony, both parties must be engaged in the conciliation process.

Are there any charges or fees for your services?

There are no charges or fees for our services.

Is there a time limit for reporting an incident or concern?

There is no time limit for reporting an incident or concern, but you are urged to contact us as soon as possible after an incident occurs to lessen the chance of escalated tension or retaliation.

Must the person directly involved in a conflict request your services?

Persons directly involved in the conflict may request our services, but others may intercede on their behalf. For example, a block captain, concerned neighbor, representative from a community group, legislative office, or another agency such as the Police Department may request our services.

Who determines if a complaint falls under your jurisdiction?

An Intake Representative will take your statement in a confidential setting. You will have the opportunity to share whatever you believe is pertinent to the incident or situation you are reporting. The Intake Representative will work with you to determine if your case is appropriate for this agency. If it is not, you will be advised and provided with a referral to other agencies or services that might address your concerns. If the case appears to be under our jurisdiction, it will be tentatively accepted and referred to a supervisor for a final determination.

Situations that come under our jurisdiction:
Reducing tension or conflict among individuals, households, or groups having an ongoing relationship with each other. This can include neighbors, businesses, religious institutions, civic or community groups, or others.

Situations that do not come under our jurisdiction:
o Married or separated couples
o Victims of serious crimes or property damage
o Strangers who are not likely to see one another again
o Disputants who are already in court or whose dispute is in arbitration or in front of an administrative body such as the Zoning Board, DA's Private Criminal Complaint, etc.

What happens after my complaint is processed?

The complaint will be reviewed by an Intake Supervisor, then assigned to a Community Relations Representative. That representative will contact you by letter or telephone to discuss the complaint and our services in more detail.

How long does the whole process take?

While the processing time varies, depending on volume and nature of complaints received, you can expect to be contacted by a representative within three weeks of the date of your intake. If you believe this is an urgent situation, please indicate so to the Intake Representative.

What can I expect to happen after I am contacted?

The assigned Community Relations Representative will:
1. Listen to your concerns and help you assess the nature of the dispute.
2. Explore approaches to conflict resolution appropriate to your situation.
3. Make contact with the other party in an attempt to establish lines of communications so that you can begin to work together to resolve the dispute.
4. Assist in identifying other individuals, resources, and / or services that might be applied to a resolution of the situation.
5. Act as a go-between until you and the other party come to a working resolution.
6. Offer formal mediation offered if the parties wish to negotiate a written agreement that describes your future relationship with one another.
7. Remain available to help the parties deal with disagreements that may arise from ongoing efforts at resolution.

How do I request your services?

You can talk with one of our Human Relations Intake Reps by calling 215-686-4670, contact us by email: pchr@phila.gov, or fax: 215-686-4684.

You can also speak to a Human Relations Intake Representative in person at our Center City office:

The Curtis Center
601 Walnut Street, Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Discrimination and Enforcement

What services do you provide?

We investigate and resolve claims of illegal discrimination involving workplaces, public spaces, and properties in Philadelphia. Our services cover three main areas: (1) employment discrimination; (2) public accommodations discrimination; and (3) housing and real property discrimination.

As part of our investigative work, we often provide related assistance, such as helping people draft and file their complaints or helping the parties settle their dispute. If our investigation finds evidence that discrimination has occurred, our Commissioners can resolve the dispute by holding a public hearing and issuing an order to address any discrimination they determine has occurred. The public hearing is like a trial where the Commissioners are the judges.

What kind of discrimination complaints do you handle?

We handle complaints of illegal discrimination in three main areas: (1) employment; (2) public accommodations; and (3) housing and real property. The discrimination you complain of must be based on one of the following categories:

• Age (40+ in employment and all ages in housing)
• Ancestry
• Color
• Disability
• Domestic and Sexual Violence
• Ethnicity
• Familial Status
• Gender Identity
• Genetic Information (in employment)
• Marital Status
• National Origin
• Race
• Religion
• Retaliation for Complaining of Discrimination
• Sex
• Sexual Orientation
• Source of Income (in housing)

Who is eligible to request your services?

Anyone who works in Philadelphia may request our employment discrimination services. Anyone who owns or rents property in Philadelphia may request our housing and real property discrimination services. And anyone who lives, works or visits Philadelphia may request our public accommodation services.

Can I remain anonymous?

Unfortunately, you may not. In order to investigate your discrimination complaint, we will need to inform the person or organization you accuse of discrimination that you have filed a complaint against them.

Are there any charges or fees for your services?

There are no charges or fees for our services.

Is there a time limit for filing a discrimination complaint?

Yes. You must file your complaint within 300 days of the alleged act of discrimination, unless you have a valid legal justification for not filing within this period.

How do I file a complaint?

If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with our office using our Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent. Your complaint must provide enough detail to inform the Commission and the respondent (the person or company named in your complaint as responsible) of the timing, location and facts of the alleged discrimination. Our staff can help you prepare and file a complaint.

How long does the whole process take?

The time it takes to investigate a complaint can vary greatly, depending on the facts of the case and the size of our workload. It may take several months or even longer to investigate your complaint.

Do I need an attorney to file a complaint?

You do not need an attorney to file a complaint or at any point during our investigation. But you have the right to have someone represent you, and an attorney may be helpful, especially if you wish to take your case to court or your case goes to a public hearing before our Commissioners. The person or organization you accuse of discrimination is likely to have an attorney represent them.

We cannot provide you an attorney or serve as your attorney at any point in your discrimination complaint process. Our staff must be neutral during the investigation of your complaint.

How do I request your services?

You can talk with one of our Human Relations Intake Representatives by calling 215-686-4670, sending an email, or faxing your information to 215-686-4684.

Ban The Box

What is Ban the Box?

Ban the Box, officially The Philadelphia Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Ordinance (Bill No. 110111‐A), was enacted by the City of Philadelphia on April 13, 2011. The law prohibits employers from inquiring about criminal convictions during the application process and in the first interview, and from making personnel decisions based on arrests or criminal accusations that do not result in a conviction.

What are the restrictions on the use of criminal record histories?

Ban the Box prohibits potential employers from:
 
• On the employment application, inquiring about: (1) any arrest or criminal accusation which is not then pending and which did not result in a conviction; and (2) any criminal convictions.

• Before and during the first interview, inquiring about: (1) any arrest or criminal accusation which is not then pending and which did not result in a conviction; and (2) any criminal convictions (if an employer does not conduct any interviews, then it is not permitted to conduct any inquiries regarding criminal records).

• After the first interview, inquiring about and/or making any adverse personnel decision based on any arrest or criminal accusation which is not then pending and which did not result in a conviction.

What is the intended purpose of Ban the Box?

Ban the Box is intended to encourage the hiring of qualified ex‐offenders by ensuring that employers screen applicants based on their work qualifications, without consideration of their prior criminal history. The Ordinance also aims to reduce recidivism through the employment of qualified ex-offenders.

When did Ban the Box go into effect?

July 12, 2011.

Which employers are subject to Ban the Box?

With certain specified exemptions, the law applies to ALL City and private employers with 10 or more employees in the City of Philadelphia.

Which employers are exempt from the law?

Criminal Justice Agencies as defined in the Ordinance (for example, prisons, courts, police departments) are exempt.

Are there any other exemptions from the law?

The Ordinance’s restrictions may not apply when employers are mandated by state or federal law to consider certain criminal histories of applicants. However, even where such mandates exist, most employers will be able to comply with both Ban the Box and the state or federal law by waiting until after the first interview to make criminal history inquiries; unless the state or federal law specifically requires that the inquiry be made on the employment application or during the first interview, employers are required to comply with Ban the Box.

What are the consequences for failing to comply?

A violation of the Ordinance is a "Class III" offense, subject to a fine of up to $2,000 per violation.

All penalties assessed are payable to the City of Philadelphia. You will not receive any compensation or other damages for a violation of Ban the Box.

Who enforces Ban the Box?

The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) enforces the law.

How can I file a complaint for a violation of Ban the Box?

If you feel that your potential or current employer has violated Ban the Box, you can file a complaint with the PCHR. You can complete a complaint form in person at our office Monday through Friday from 8:30am‐4:30pm. You can also print a copy of it from our website, complete the form at home, and send it to our office by mail or fax.

If my complaint is accepted by the PCHR, will I have to testify at a hearing?

Maybe. If your complaint is based on unlawful questions asked on an employment application, you will not have to testify so long as the PCHR has a copy of the application. If your complaint is based on unlawful questions asked at an interview or adverse personnel actions, you will be required to testify.

Where can I receive additional information about the PCHR and Ban the Box?

For more information on how to file a complaint call the PCHR at 215-686-4670 or visit the Commission’s website at www.phila.gov/humanrelations.

Filing A Complaint

How To File A Discrimination Complaint

If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with the PCHR using the PCHR Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent. Your complaint must provide enough detail to inform the Commission and the respondent (the person or company named in your complaint as responsible) of the timing, location and facts of the alleged discrimination. Our staff can help you prepare and file a complaint.

It is your responsibility to make sure your complaint is correct, complete and filed in a timely manner. Your complaint must be filed within 300 days of the alleged act of discrimination, unless you have a valid legal reason for not filing within this period.

Neither you nor the respondent is required to hire an attorney when dealing with the PCHR. However, you have the right to have someone represent you, and the respondent often has an attorney represent them.

What Happens After You File A Complaint?

Once you have filed your complaint with the PCHR, you will not be able to file the same complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. If your complaint falls within the laws the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces, we will file a copy of your complaint with the EEOC on your behalf, but the EEOC will not conduct its own investigation.

The PCHR will try to determine whether there is enough evidence to show that unlawful discrimination occurred. Your complaint will be given a docket number and assigned to an investigator. The investigator will send the respondent a copy of your complaint, which includes your name. You will receive a copy of the mailing that is sent to the respondent.
 
If your complaint does not fit within the PCHR’s laws or is untimely, we will close your complaint quickly. We may also close your complaint quickly if we decide that we probably will not be able to find discrimination.

If we do not close your complaint quickly, the respondent will be required to answer your complaint within 30 days of the date they receive it and provide you with a copy of their answer. After you receive the respondent’s answer, you will be given 30 days to reply and submit any supporting documents. Failure to respond in a timely fashion could result in your complaint being dismissed. If more information is needed after receiving the respondent’s answer and your reply, PCHR staff will investigate your complaint. Once the PCHR has found enough information to make a decision regarding your complaint, you will be notified of the result by mail.

With respect to discrimination complaints, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations is a NEUTRAL decision-making agency. We do not serve as either side’s lawyer or advisor, and we do not prosecute the case for the complainant.

The job of the Commission is to:

• Investigate each complaint that is filed and decide whether there is substantial evidence of the alleged ordinance violation.

• Conduct a public adjudicatory hearing if substantial evidence is found, then rule based on the evidence received.

• Order remedies if the complainant provides at the hearing that discrimination occurred.

• Settle cases when possible.

How Do We Investigate A Complaint?

Once you have filed your complaint with the PCHR, you will not be able to file the same complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. If your complaint falls within the laws the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces, we will file a copy of your complaint with the EEOC on your behalf, but the EEOC will not conduct its own investigation.

The PCHR will try to determine whether there is enough evidence to show that unlawful discrimination occurred. Your complaint will be given a docket number and assigned to an investigator. The investigator will send the respondent a copy of your complaint, which includes your name. You will receive a copy of the mailing that is sent to the respondent.
 
If your complaint does not fit within the PCHR’s laws or is untimely, we will close your complaint quickly. We may also close your complaint quickly if we decide that we probably will not be able to find discrimination.

If we do not close your complaint quickly, the respondent will be required to answer your complaint within 30 days of the date they receive it and provide you with a copy of their answer. After you receive the respondent’s answer, you will be given 30 days to reply and submit any supporting documents. Failure to respond in a timely fashion could result in your complaint being dismissed. If more information is needed after receiving the respondent’s answer and your reply, PCHR staff will investigate your complaint. Once the PCHR has found enough information to make a decision regarding your complaint, you will be notified of the result by mail.

How Will Your Complaint Be Resolved?

Your complaint may be resolved without a complete investigation being conducted. This could occur if, for example:

• You and the respondent settle the complaint in writing.
• You fail to cooperate with the investigation.
• We are unable to locate you.
• You decide you wish to take your case to court before the investigation is complete. (You will be responsible for finding your own attorney.)
 
After a complete investigation, the investigator will compile the evidence collected and present it for consideration by the PCHR Commissioners. The PCHR investigator does not make any rulings on your complaint. All rulings are made by the PCHR Commissioners.

If the investigation does not produce enough evidence to show that discrimination occurred, a charge not substantiated finding will be made.

If the investigation finds probable cause to support the complaint, PCHR will attempt to settle the complaint as soon as possible by asking the respondent to (1) stop the specific discrimination mentioned in the complaint and (2) take any additional necessary steps to correct the discrimination found in the investigation. If there is no settlement after a probable cause finding, a public hearing will be held. Both you and the respondent will be required to present testimony under oath before the PCHR Commissioners. The Commissioners will make a decision on the evidence presented at the hearing. Their decision may include remedies for any injury suffered as a result of the discrimination.

What Happens At An Adjudicatory Hearing?

After a probable cause finding, a public adjudicatory hearing is held if the parties do not reach a voluntary settlement of the case. The adjudicatory hearing is a trial, but somewhat less formal than in court. The Chairperson of the Commission appoints one or more commissioners to serve as hearing commissioners. The hearing commissioners preside over the adjudicatory hearing and manage the hearing process. No one is required to have an attorney, but it is recommended. The Commission does not prosecute or present the case for the complainant.

At the adjudicatory hearing, the complainant is required to present evidence, such as witness testimony and documents, to show that unlawful discrimination has occurred and to prove what damages the complainant has incurred.

After the adjudicatory hearing, the hearing commissioners write a decision stating which party should win the case. If the hearing commissioners decide in favor of the complainant, the decision will include appropriate remedies. The ruling can be appealed to the appropriate state court.

What Relief Can You Get?

If the respondent is found liable after the adjudicatory hearing, the Commission may order one or more of the following types of remedies, based on the evidence of injury the complainant presented:

Out-of-pocket Damages. Reimbursement for financial losses resulting from the discrimination, such as back pay, if denied a job, or moving costs, if forced out of an apartment.

Emotional Distress Damages. Payment to compensate for the emotional injury that the complainant proved was caused by the unlawful discrimination.

Punitive Damages. Payment up to $2,000 to the complainant if the respondent’s conduct was found to be willful, wanton, or in reckless disregard of the complainant’s rights.

Attorney Fees and Costs. Payment for the reasonable work the complainant’s attorney performed on the case and reimbursement of hearing costs.

Injunctive Relief. Orders that a respondent take certain steps to eliminate discriminatory practices or makes the complainant whole, such as changing a discriminatory policy, making premises wheelchair accessible, or offering the next available job or housing unit.

Penalties. Payment to the City of Philadelphia up to $2,000 for each violation of the Fair Practices Ordinance.

Can You Settle Your Complaint?

The Commission encourages parties to settle cases on a voluntary basis at any time while a complaint is pending. The Commission will not pressure either side to settle but will facilitate discussion if both sides are interested. An investigator may discuss with the parties whether they wish to try to settle the case before the investigation is completed. Either party’s attorney or representative may contact the other to initiate settlement discussions at any time, without Commission involvement. If the parties reach agreement on settlement terms, the Commission will explain the procedures to close the case either by approved settlement agreement (with retained jurisdiction to seek enforcement) or by withdrawal of the complaint pursuant to a private settlement.

Domestic Violence

What is the Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law?

Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law, officially Entitlement to Leave Due to Domestic and Sexual Violence (Bill No. 090660-A), was enacted by the City of Philadelphia on December 1, 2009. The law requires employers to allow employee to take an unpaid leave of absence from work so that the employee, or someone in the employee’s family or household, can get medical attention, legal assistance, social services, or other help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence.

Are there restrictions on the type of leave I can take?

The law allows you to take an unpaid leave of absence from work so that you, or someone in your family or household, can get medical attention, legal assistance, social services or other help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence. You may take leave to do any of the following for yourself or your household or family member:
  • Seek medical attention for physical or psychological injuries;
  • Obtain help from an organization that provides services to domestic or sexual violence victims;
  • Obtain counseling or therapy;
  • Make safety plans, including possibly relocating to increase safety;
  • Seek legal assistance.
The amount of unpaid leave you can take will depend on the size of your employer and the amount of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you have used. If you work for an employer with fewer than 50 employees, you may be able to take up to 4 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period. If you work for an employer with 50 or more employees, you may be able to take up to 8 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period. The amount of leave you are eligible to receive under the Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave Law could be reduced by any leave you have taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your Domestic Violence Unpaid Leave, when added to any FMLA leave, cannot be more than the 12 weeks in a 12-month period provided under the FMLA.

How do I request an unpaid leave for domestic violence?

You must provide your employer with at least 48-hours notice of the leave unless it is not practicable for you to do so. Your employer may require you to provide documentation showing the reason that your leave is to help you, or someone in your family or household, deal with domestic or sexual violence. For example, your employer could require you to provide one of the following as documentation:

  • a police record;
  • a court record;
  • a letter from an organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional from whom you or your family or household member has sought help in dealing with domestic or sexual violence itself.

What should I do if my employer denies my request for leave or retaliates against me for taking leave?

It is discrimination for an employer to deny a lawful request for leave under the domestic violence unpaid leave law. If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with our office using our Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent.

Is there a time limit for filing a complaint?

Yes. You must file your complaint within 300 days of the date you were denied leave or retaliated against for taking leave, unless you have a valid legal justification for not filing within this period.

How do I file a complaint?

If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may file a complaint with the PCHR using the PCHR Complaint of Discrimination form or a substantial equivalent. Your complaint must provide enough detail to inform the Commission and the respondent (the person or company named in your complaint as responsible) of the timing, location and facts of the alleged discrimination. Our staff can help you prepare and file a complaint.

How long does the whole process take?

The time it takes to investigate a complaint can vary greatly, depending on the facts of the case and the size of our workload. It may take several months or even longer to investigate your complaint.

Do I need an attorney to file a complaint?

No. You do not need an attorney to file a complaint or at any point during our investigation. But you have the right to have someone represent you, and an attorney may be helpful, especially if you wish to take your case to court or your case goes to a public hearing before our Commissioners. The person or organization you accuse of discrimination is likely to have an attorney represent them.

We cannot provide you an attorney or serve as your attorney at any point in your discrimination complaint process. Our staff must be neutral during the investigation of your complaint.

How do I request your services?

You can talk with one of our Human Relations Intake Representatives by calling 215-686-4670, sending an email, or faxing your information to 215-686-4684.