Currently, mediation services are only open to employment or public accommodation complaints.
The PHRC reviews employment and public accommodation filings for mediation eligibility after a complainant files a questionnaire or attorney-drafted complaint. If the complaint is eligible:
- The PHRC intake staff sends the complainant an Invitation to Mediate.
- The complainant chooses whether or not mediation services fit their specific situation.
- The complainant signs and sends back the Invitation to Mediate if they want to voluntarily participate in mediation.
If a complainant returns the signed Invitation to Mediate form, the PHRC staff calls the complaint respondent to notify them that a complaint has been filed and is eligible for mediation resolution. Then, the complaint respondent:
- Receives information about the complaint.
- Chooses whether or not mediation services fit their specific situation.
- Notifies the PHRC staff if they want to voluntarily participate in mediation.
The case is then referred to a mediator if all parties agree to mediation.
The PHRC mediator team is made up of volunteers and non-volunteers who have been trained on mediation and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).
Complainants and complaint respondents may bring an attorney or representation to the mediation session, but it is not required. You may bring a friend or relative to the mediation session if you choose not to bring an attorney or representation.
If both parties execute a settlement agreement at the mediation session:
- The charge filed with the PHRC will be withdrawn, and
- No formal investigation will take place.
If both parties are unable to reach an agreement:
- The case will be returned to the PHRC for investigation.
Mediation services are confidential under Pennsylvania law. This allows the complainants and complaint respondents the freedom to express themselves without fear of what they say being held against them. The mediator does not keep notes of discussions during the mediation session.
The PHRC offers mediation services free of charge. Mediation takes place before a formal investigation where fees and damages can accumulate.
Mediation services are voluntary, and either party can terminate participation at any time. The case is returned to the PHRC for investigation if:
- Either party decides not to mediate, or
- A settlement agreement is not reached.
Mediation services are quick. The mediation process is designed to take place before the investigation begins and before fees and damages accumulate. Once a mediator is assigned to the case, the parties have 30 days to schedule the mediation session.
The mediators are neutral and have no stake in the outcome.
The mediators will attempt to schedule the mediation sessions as near to both parties' geographical location as possible.
Clear Up Misunderstandings
Mediation provides an opportunity to clarify the issues that led to the complaint and allows each party to clear up any misunderstandings.
No Admission of a Violation
A mediation settlement does not constitute an admission to a violation of any state or federal anti-discrimination laws.
Mediation allows parties to be creative in their settlements because they are not only confined to remedies available under state or federal law.
The mediation services process includes the following steps:
- The complainant files a complaint.
- After determining whether the complaint is eligible for mediation, the PHRC offers the complainant the opportunity to participate in mediation services.
- If the complainant chooses mediation, the complaint respondent is also invited to mediate.
- If the complaint respondent also chooses mediation, the complaint is then assigned to a volunteer mediator.
- If either party rejects mediation, the complaint is assigned to an investigator who begins the investigation.
- If both parties reach an agreement at mediation, the complaint is withdrawn, and no investigation takes place.
- If no agreement is reached, the complaint is assigned to an investigator who begins the investigation.
Learn more about the mediation services process (in English or Español):