Your filed complaint will be investigated by a PHRC investigator. In dealing with your investigator, you must give all the facts if the PHRC is to properly resolve your complaint.
- Make your investigator fully aware of details.
- Answer all of the questions you are asked, even if you think the answer might weaken your complaint.
- Your investigator will be better prepared if such information is discussed by the respondent.
- Names, dates, places, and addresses must be as accurate as possible.
- Make available to your investigator any witnesses or documents that may help prove your charges (e.g., payroll slips or rent receipts).
- The PHRC has the power to subpoena relevant witnesses and documents if necessary.
Keep your investigator advised of any change in your or your attorney's address or telephone number.
Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone from taking any action against:
- You because you have filed a complaint
- A witness who has testified or assisted in a PHRC proceeding
- Anyone who has otherwise opposed any practice forbidden by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).
This is called retaliation, and the law protects those who oppose illegal behavior.
The fact-finding conference is often held by the PHRC as early in the process as possible. PHRC staff will conduct the conference, at which you and the respondent present evidence and documents.
- The fact-finding conference is designed to speed up the investigation and possibly help reach a fair settlement of your complaint.
- The fact-finding conference is not a public proceeding or hearing.
A fact-finding conference may not be held in your case. There are several reasons why a fact-finding conference may not be held, which include the following:
- The case may be settled.
- A complainant or respondent may refuse to participate.
- The investigator may determine that a conference is not necessary based upon all of the circumstances.
If your complaint is not resolved at the fact-finding conference or if one is not held, the investigation will continue.
The investigator will:
- Interview the complainant
- Interview the respondent
- Interview other relevant witnesses
- Review all pertinent records and documents obtained through voluntary cooperation or subpoena
You may be asked to clarify your complaint in the light of new information or to rebut the responses of the respondent. Immediately notify your investigator if you learn or remember any additional information.
The PHRC investigation may:
- Find no probable cause or lack of jurisdiction and move to dismiss the complaint, or
- Find probable cause and act to correct the discrimination and its effects.
Cases may also be resolved by a:
- Voluntary settlement (agreed to by both parties) prior to a formal finding, or
- An administrative closure (e.g., if you withdraw your case or file in court).
You will be notified by mail if the PHRC dismisses the case. The notice will include any appeal rights you may have.
Within one year after you file a complaint with the PHRC, you may bring action in a Court of Common Pleas or in Commonwealth Court if:
- The complaint has not been resolved, or
The PHRC dismisses your complaint.
If the investigation establishes probable cause, efforts to conciliate (settle) will take place as soon as possible. The respondent will be asked to:
- Cease and desist from the specific discriminatory act or practice involved in the complaint, and
- Implement whatever actions, programs, or compensation the PHRC deems necessary to remedy the discrimination uncovered in the investigation.
If the case has not settled after a probable cause finding, the PHRC may convene a public hearing at which testimony under oath is presented.
- Your complaint will be represented by a PHRC attorney, or a private attorney if you prefer.
- A decision will be rendered, and a legally enforceable order issued.
- This order may be appealed to Commonwealth Court.
In certain housing discrimination cases, parties will be permitted to elect court action instead of a PHRC public hearing.