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Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW
Chad Dion Lassiter is a nationally recognized expert in the field of American Race Relations. Lassiter has worked on race, peace, and poverty-related issues in the U.S., Africa, Canada, Haiti, Israel, and Norway, and is called upon frequently by media outlets to provide commentary on race relations and potential solutions.
Lassiter is the current Executive Director of the PHRC, where he has legislatively delegated authority to investigate filed complaints alleging the occurrence of unlawful discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and commercial property, education, and/or regarding public accommodations.
During his tenure in this position, he has developed and launched a "No Hate in Our State Townhall" to address the surge of White Nationalism in Pennsylvania and a "Social Justice Lecture Series" to provide an outlet for Pa. communities to discuss imperative issues. He also serves on a Racial Reduction Response team for those communities impacted by hatred.
He oversees a staff of 87 with three Regional Offices that serve the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. He also manages an annual budget of $12 million. Under his appointment, Mr. Lassiter has developed programs, such as a "Global Social Justice Initiative," "Black and Jewish Beloved Community Dialogue," and the "College Race Dialogue Initiative."
Lassiter received his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Social Work, where he was the A. Phillip Randolph Award winner in 2001. He received his bachelor's degree in Social Work from Johnson C. Smith University in 1995.
Lassiter is a Co-founder and the current President of The University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy & Practice's Black Men at Penn, the first Ivy League black male group of social workers. This transcendent group seeks to recruit black males into the profession, provide anti-racism and violence-prevention training to urban and suburban schools around the country, and offer diversity and inclusion training for corporate entities and penal systems.
Lassiter has been recognized by the Philadelphia Tribune as "The Most Influential African American Leader from 2010-2020," as the "Young Leaders of the Future Under 30" by Ebony Magazine in 2003, and "Who's Who among African-Americans" 17th edition in 2004 with such notables as Colin Powell and Michael Jordan. On November 18, 2019, Lassiter was inducted into the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2021, Lassiter was named Social Worker of the Year by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and in 2022 was named to City and State's "The Power of Diverstiy Black 100" list.
Lassiter's previous work includes Executive Director of the Red Cross House with the American Red Cross of Eastern Pennsylvania and a Visiting Scholar at West Chester University in the Undergraduate School of Social Work. He was also a former contributing Professor at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, where he was the 2008 recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Involvement Award. He is a former research fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Collective Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where he worked on two National Research Projects, P.L.A.A.Y. (Preventing Long Term Anger and Aggression in Youth) and H.I.P.P. (Health Information Providers and Promoters).
Lassiter has also held several Board of Trustees positions, which include his appointment as a member of the Board of Governors at St. Christopher Hospital for the Children (five years), Board of Trustees for the Philadelphia Prison System (eight years), and Board of Trustees for the Community College of Philadelphia (five years).
Lassiter is a pioneer in the fields of social work, social justice, and race relations where he hopes to continue to impact and empower.
Special Assistant to Executive Director Zulay Rojas
In her role as Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Zulay Rojas is a member of the Beloved Community. This role affords her the opportunity to listen intently and assist those in need with empathy.
During a selfless service to our nation in the Armed Forces, her boots were stationed in the Mesopotamian sands of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. After nine years of serving in the military, she hung up the uniform and started her journey into civil service.
As a Criminal Justice Scholar, she discovered the importance of equal rights for all and joined the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
It is here that she can live out Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s realistic vision of the Beloved Community, one in which "caring and compassion drive political policies that support worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. A state of heart and mind, a spirit of hope and goodwill that transcends all boundaries and barriers and embraces all creation."
Chief Counsel Meredith Millard, Esq.
As Chief Counsel for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), Meredith Millard, Esq. oversees the Office of Chief Counsel, part of which is responsible for providing legal advice and representation to the Commissioners and the Executive Director on a multitude of issues, and part of which is responsible for advocating on behalf of persons pursuing complaints of unlawful discrimination at public hearings in cases where probable cause is found.
Prior to joining the PHRC, Ms. Millard served as an attorney for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) for more than six years, where her primary focus was Labor and Employment Law. In that capacity, she provided legal representation to the PLCB in employee disciplinary appeal and grievance proceedings, unemployment compensation claims proceedings, and proceedings involving complaints of unlawful employment or public accommodation discrimination brought before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the PHRC. Among other things, she also provided legal advice to PLCB staff responsible for investigating internal complaints of unlawful discrimination and responding to disability or religious-based accommodation requests.
Ms. Millard also previously served as an attorney for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) for several years, where she was responsible for providing legal representation to the Association and its members in various employment-related and other administrative and court proceedings.
While serving as an attorney for PSEA and later for the PLCB, Ms. Millard also assisted with litigating several important cases involving the interplay between Pennsylvania's open records laws and personal privacy rights protected by the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Having represented an employer, as well as a union and its members, at different points in her career, Ms. Millard has extensive knowledge of federal and state laws which are intended to prohibit unlawful discrimination and promote workplace equality. She is also well versed at identifying and distinguishing between workplace disputes or general dissatisfaction with working conditions and unlawful discrimination, and she understands the importance of considering both sides of an issue when providing legal advice or recommendations to the PHRC to maintain fairness and impartiality.
Ms. Millard holds a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, where she served as the Business/External Managing Editor for the Widener Law Review. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Elizabethtown College, where she was a College Scholar and graduated with honors majoring in Political Science and minoring in Philosophy.
Ms. Millard is a lifelong Pennsylvanian and the proud mother of three wonderful children who bring much joy to her and her husband, while also keeping them very busy in their spare time.
Deputy Chief Counsel Morgan Williams, Esq.
Deputy Chief Counsel Morgan Williams has been with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission for ten years, serving in different capacities in the Office of Chief Counsel. In her role as Deputy Chief Counsel, she supervises the office's prosecuting attorneys who advocate on behalf of persons pursing complaints of unlawful discrimination at public hearings in cases where probable cause is found. In addition to her role as a supervisor, she also works with Senior Management on a variety of complex issues, including policy, legislation, regulations, internal HR matters, and various special projects as assigned by the Executive Director and/or Chief Counsel.
Prior to serving in her role as Deputy Chief Counsel, Williams was a senior prosecutor within the Office of Chief Counsel where she handled complex litigation and appeals. During her time at the Commission, she has also served as Interim Chief Counsel and Interim Regional Director. She has received the Legal Star Award and the Executive Director's Award. Deputy Chief Counsel Williams serves the people of the Commonwealth out of the Commission's Pittsburgh Regional Office.
Before her tenure with the Commission, Williams cut her teeth in private practice and worked with the Commission's partners at the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission. Williams holds a Juris Doctor Degree from Widener University School of Law in Delaware.
Hearing Examiner Darlene Hemerka, Esq.
Darlene Hemerka, Esquire brings a passion for equity and inclusion to her role as a Hearing Examiner for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Hemerka became an attorney to enforce civil rights laws. Part of her passion stems from the fact that she was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a walker to ambulate.
Prior to joining the PHRC, Hemerka was a staff attorney at the Legal Clinic for the Disabled. Her responsibilities included overseeing the intake line, educating families and practitioners on alternatives to guardianship for adults with disabilities and representing tenants in municipal court and in front of the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission.
Hemerka also worked at the Public Interest Law Center (Law Center). She began her time at the Law Center as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. As a fellow, she designed a project to ensure that students with disabilities ages 14-21 received appropriate "transition services;" activities designed to prepare the student for employment and further education. After completing her fellowship, Hemerka became a staff attorney at the Law Center and worked on education cases.
Before joining the Law Center, Hemerka was a judicial law clerk at the Superior Court of New Jersey. She conducted mediation in small claims cases, drafted orders in family matters and communicated with attorneys and self-represented litigants.
Hearing Examiner Tamara
Tamara Shehadeh-Cope, Esq. comes to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) with a passion for human rights advocacy and furthering social justice causes. Shehadeh-Cope has dedicated much of her career to the practice of immigration law and serving particularly vulnerable noncitizens throughout the Commonwealth. She has worked diligently to provide trauma-informed advocacy to crime victims and to facilitate access to free legal services, both of which are very important to her.
Prior to joining the PHRC, Shehadeh-Cope worked at Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) in various capacities. In her role as Supervising Attorney for PIRC's Community Programs, Shehadeh-Cope represented undocumented and noncitizen survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and similar crimes before the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Service (USCIS) and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). She worked closely with clients in obtaining legal relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act while supervising a team of attorneys and Department of Justice (DOJ) Accredited Representatives doing the same.
Additionally, Shehadeh-Cope worked as a staff attorney with the Removal Defense Program, where she provided Know-Your-Rights presentations and information to detained immigrants throughout the Commonwealth as part of the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) at the Department of Justice. Through her work in removal defense, Shehadeh-Cope successfully represented many asylum-seekers and noncitizen detainees in immigration court.
Shehadeh-Cope also worked as Managing Immigration Attorney at Community Justice Project (CJP), a part of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN), where she served immigrant domestic violence survivors in their immigration cases before USCIS and EOIR. Shehadeh-Cope engaged in extensive outreach, connecting with domestic violence shelters and service providers throughout Commonwealth to provide educational trainings to staff and community stakeholders.
A graduate of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law and Fordham University, Shehadeh-Cope looks forward to contributing to the PHRC's continuing work towards a diverse, just, and inclusive Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Director of Enforcement Adrian Garcia
Adrian Garcia serves as PHRC's Director of Enforcement and has enjoyed a long career focused on assuring equal consideration and representation at every level. Experience in human relations, advertising, marketing, insurance and financial products and his degree from Palmer Business Institute have allowed him to serve his community locally and beyond -always with a focus on markets of inclusion.
As Specialty Marketing Manager for Advance Auto Parts (AAP), Garcia chaired the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group which worked on ensuring fair representation in the hiring and promoting of a diverse staff in their retail and corporate divisions.
After 5 years with AAP, Garcia returned to Lancaster, PA where he worked as Development Officer for the local Hispanic Public Radio Station, SACA Broadcast Station Corporation. Garcia was subsequently hired as an Intake officer of the Lancaster County Human Relations Commission, and later became an investigator working on employment discrimination cases and assisting as an interpreter for housing cases, which included translating complaints and other documents. He translated the Landlord/Tenants Rights and Responsibilities Manual, which is now known as the Know Your Rights Landlord and Tenant Guide. Garcia was the Education Committee Liaison working with over 15 school districts throughout Lancaster County.
In 2016, Garcia joined Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) as its director of Housing Equality & Equity Institute, where he led the effort of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing through programmatic advocacy where Garica sought ways to breathe life into the AFFH.
In 2018 Garcia applied for and secured the Fair Housing Initiatives Program designation from HUD. This was a game changer as it allowed LHOP to expand its fair housing education and outreach initiatives in York county including The Rental Advantage Course and the Eviction Prevention Network. For these programs Garcia received the 2019 Innovator Award from Fine Dinning Lancaster Magazine. The Eviction Prevention Network model has become the framework for addressing COVID19 evictions.
For his work in various communities across the nation and here at home, Adrian has received the following awards:
- NAACP Image Award for Business, Roanoke, VA
- Frank C Sumy Award from the Urban League of Lancaster.
- LULAC Leadership Award, Memphis, TN
- Compañeros Award, Atlanta, GA
- Community Stewardship Award, AUSA, Roanoke, VA
- Innovator Award, Lancaster, PA
- City and State's 50 Over 50 2021 PA Power List
Director of Policy, Intergovernmental Affairs & Mediation Ashley N. Walkowiak
Ashley N. Walkowiak serves as the Director of Policy, Intergovernmental Affairs, & Mediation. In this role, she develops and implements policy, as well as legislative and community-sensitive strategies, to further civil rights protections for Pennsylvania citizens. Additionally, she oversees the Mediation Services Division.
Prior to joining PHRC, Walkowiak served as the Special Assistant to the appointed Commonwealth Victim Advocate (2018 – 2023) where she worked to advance the rights and services provided to crime victims. She developed training on the impacts of trauma, led sensitive initiatives, directed strategic planning, and served as agency spokesperson.
From 2006 to 2018, she held various executive positions in the Governor's Office of Administration, the state agency dedicated solely to policy and implementation.
Walkowiak is passionate about restorative justice and creating a just and safe Pennsylvania for all citizens. She is a published author and holds an Art Therapy Life Coach certification. When she's not at PHRC, you can find her serving on the Cumberland County Commission for Women, writing her next book, and promoting the power of art to transform lives.
of Education Desireé Chang, M.S.
Desireé Chang serves as the Director of Education for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She has been with the PHRC for three years. Prior to becoming the Director of Education, she worked as a Civil Rights Mediator with the Mediation Division. During her tenure at the PHRC, Chang has received the Director of Excellence Award (2020) and PHRC Social Justice Team Award (2021). She is a graduate of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Institute (2021) and has been recognized for her participation on several committees and community social justice collaborative efforts.
Chang's educational acquisitions include an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, summa cum laude, obtained from HACC Lancaster. As well as, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Legal Studies from Drexel University, both magna cum laude. She is a member of several academic honor societies.
Prior to the PHRC, she worked as an adult Probation and Parole Officer with a specialized caseload of individuals with developmental and mental health disabilities. In addition, she has a background in substance abuse counseling. She has served as a facilitator for trauma informed responses and has been a certified trainer in Motivational Interviewing and Moral Recognation Therapy. She enjoys public speaking and volunteering at women's shelters.
Much of Chang's professional career has been in roles that include assistance for, or advocating of, special interest groups. Her passions are married at the PHRC with the ability to educate Pennsylvanians and actively work towards eradicating discrimination both inside and outside of the Commonwealth.
Director of Fair Housing and Commercial Property Caroline Eister
Caroline Eister serves as the Director of Fair Housing and Commercial Property at the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. In this capacity, she leads the development, implementation, and monitoring of statewide programs aimed at preventing discrimination in housing and commercial property.
Eister's journey in public service began in 2007 with the Department of Human Services where she held various roles in the Office of Developmental Programs, The Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and The Office of Administration's Bureau of Equal Opportunity. During her tenure with DHS, she made noteworthy contributions to staff development, certified investigations, licensing, institutional safety and nursing.
Prior to her commonwealth service, and throughout her career, Eister dedicated many years to supporting people with disabilities, and the elderly. She focused particularly on training, development and coordination for community living arrangements, intermediate care facilities, long term care facilities and homebased waiver programs throughout Pennsylvania. She has served as chairwoman of various human and disability rights committees, demonstrating her commitment to advocating for equality and inclusion. Eister developed impactful training programs in disability rights, abuse prevention, crisis intervention, principals of investigation, as well as healthcare and safety presentations, clinicals and practicums for community members, state agencies, students, and professionals.
Eister previously served at the PHRC in the Harrisburg Regional Office as a Human Relations Representative 2018-2019. Her return to PHRC reflects her ongoing dedication to advancing fair housing and advocating for the rights of all Pennsylvanians. Her personal passion for social justice, provides support for positive change and empowerment in communities across the state.
Director of Human Resources Lauren Curtis Daman
Lauren Curtis Daman is the Director of Human Resources for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). As a Senior Manager, she is responsible for direct strategies, initiatives, and operations for the human resource services program for PHRC. This includes personnel and position management, labor relations, staff development, and complement management.
Daman's educational background includes an Associates and Bachelor's degree in an accelerated Corporate Communications program obtained from Elizabethtown College.
Prior to coming to the Commission, Daman worked for the Commonwealth, where she held positions as a Labor Relations Analyst, Employee Training Analyst, and an Human Resources Analyst in corrections, beverage, and education. Her passion is helping people with information that is needed. Her favorite quote for and in life is, "treat people the way you want to be treated."
Harrisburg Regional Office Director Heather Roth
Heather Roth joined the PHRC in January of 2013 as the Regional Director for the Harrisburg region. The Harrisburg Regional office serves 36 counties in PA. Roth's role is to direct and manage the investigative work of the staff as well as to conduct outreach and training for the communities in which the office serves.
Prior to this role, Roth spent 15+ years in the field of Human Resources Management. She served in multiple senior manager roles and directed the human resources functions for multi-site and multi-state organizations. As a District Human Resources Manager for The Home Depot, she oversaw the HR operations of eight store locations in Central PA which employed more than 1,000 employees. She also served as a certified management trainer and worked on special employee relations projects throughout the PA/NJ region.
As the Manager of Store Support - Human Resources for Ollie's Bargain Outlet she oversaw the HR functions for 111 stores in 12 states which employed more than 3,000 employees. Roth was instrumental in developing HR policies and documents as well as keeping the organization compliant with state and Federal laws. Roth also served as a Market Area Human Resources Manager for Interstate Waste Services (now Advanced Disposal) overseeing the PA and MD markets.
Roth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Penn State University where she studied Public Relations. Roth has held professional certifications in human resources since 2004. She obtained her SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification from the Human Resource Certification Institute in 2010.
Roth was accepted as a member of the Mid Atlantic ADA Leadership Network in 2016.
Roth received two awards from the Commonwealth in 2016 including a “Transformation Award” from the Governor’s Office of Innovation and the “Education and Outreach Award” from the Commission for her work in educating the public.
Pittsburgh Regional Office Director Dr. La Dawn Robinson
“Pursuing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion is a moral imperative. I believe that all people should be treated fairly with dignity and respect". Dr. La Dawn Robinson.
Dr. La Dawn Robinson serves as the Regional Director for the Pittsburgh region. The Pittsburgh Regional Office serves 23 counties in the Commonwealth. Dr. Robinson's role is to manage the daily operations of the office, direct the investigative work of the staff, as well as to conduct outreach and training for the communities in which the office serves. Additionally, this role allows Dr. Robinson to continue her passion for equal employment opportunity in the workplace – specifically the fair treatment that employees' rights are not being violated but are being respected.
Prior to the role of Regional Director, Dr. Robinson devoted 20+ years in the field of Human Resources where she served in multiple management roles and lead multiple HR functions, such as Equal Opportunity /Affirmative Action, Talent Acquisition, and Employee Relations. Additionally, Dr. Robinson is a member of an array of committees, councils and boards that advocate for social justice, equity justice, and diversity, accessibility & inclusion.
She holds a Doctorate degree in Executive Leadership from the University of Charleston, a Master of Science degree in Professional Leadership from Carlow University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from West Virginia University.
Philadelphia Regional Office Director Robert Lindsey
Robert Lindsey serves as the director of the Philadelphia Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. In addition to managing the operations of the office, this role allows Lindsey to continue his personal and professional path of serving and functioning in core human relations domains – specifically equal employment opportunity, diversity and inclusion, civil rights, and social Justice.
Lindsey has held positions within the public and private sectors which he says has heightened his desire and commitment to address biased and unfounded prejudicial assumptions which unfortunately have led to discriminatory paradigms throughout the world we live in today.
Director Lindsey’s academic background includes earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tennessee with a major in philosophy concurrent with a commission in the U.S. Army. He started his career at what was at that point his most rewarding assignment, working as the Operations and Chief Test Management Officer of the Philadelphia Military Entrance Processing Station.
Since that time Director Lindsey has held positions of increasing authority and responsibility within the Human Resource Management field. Prior to joining the PHRC team, he served as the Strategic and Operations Human Resource Business Partner/Consultant for Next Generation Corporation, a diversified management consulting/advisory firm.
Recently, Lindsey completed a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Southern New Hampshire University, focusing on course work as it applied to cultural diversity, law, and ethics, thus reaffirming interest and commitment to addressing the factors that enable and sustain our social contract of living in a society centered in justice, equality, and fairness.
Director of Communications Amanda Brothman
Amanda Brothman serves as Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission with responsibility for leading statewide integrated communications, marketing, public relations, and media strategies. Likewise, she directs production of the PHRC Annual Report, the Annual No Hate in our State/Building the Beloved Community Report, and a monthly staff newsletter.
Brothman has more than a decade of communications experience. From 2010-2013, she worked as a writer, producer, and executive producer at WPMT, FOX43 in York, Pa; from 2014-2015, she was the 5 p.m. producer at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Md; and from 2015-2021 she was an executive producer at WHTM in Harrisburg, Pa. Additionally she was a media specialist for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2021-2022.
A graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.