Grove: Reform Needed for Human Rights Commission Before Additional Funding is Considered

Grove introducing legislation to streamline case management, ensure justice

HARRISBURG –Today, Senate Democrats called for increased funding for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC), which investigates claims and enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination regarding employment, housing or public accommodations. The PHRC was created by Act 222 of 1955. In recent years, PHRC has come under fire for the amount of time it takes to respond to alleged acts of discrimination.

PHRC’s 2013-14 annual report indicated that the average age of a case brought before the commission is 487 days. The same report indicated that despite over 3,000 alleged acts of discrimination brought before the commission, 63 percent of the cases which were investigated were closed due to a lack of probable cause. Only 40 cases were found to have probable cause according to the 2013-14 report and 35 of those cases were settled within a year.

While PHRC has taken steps to improve its response to cases of alleged discrimination, including the recent adoption of the mediation program, more reform is needed to ensure that those facing discrimination are protected by promptly handling cases.

Grove issued the following statement in response to Senate Democrats calls for higher funding for the commission:

“I join my colleagues from across the aisle and across the Capitol building in wishing for a more efficient and effective Human Relations Commission to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth. Far too often in the General Assembly, legislators are convinced that additional funding is the only way to improve services. This kind of status quo thinking is holding the Commonwealth back. Additional funding is not the answer; bold, commonsense reforms can improve the Human Relations Commission.

“The Human Relations Commission does not have a solid track record of effectively responding to alleged cases of discrimination. With a backlogged caseload and an average case age of nearly 16 months before reaching a conclusion, it is clear that reform is needed to ensure that justice is delivered by the commission. My proposed legislation would ensure that each case is responded to promptly and focus the commission on pushing for resolution at every step of the case management process.

“What’s troubling about my colleagues’ ‘funding first, reform never’ approach is that they are ignoring the true cost driver which is eating at departmental budgets at all levels—increased personal costs and our pension crisis. Personnel costs for departments are skyrocketing-- paying much more solely toward retirement benefits. If my colleagues truly want to increase funding for departments such as the Human Relations Commission, and set the Commonwealth on firm long-term financial footing, I ask them to join with me and other members of the General Assembly who are working to reform Pennsylvania’s broken pension systems. Without substantive reforms including reforms both in terms of procedure and personnel it is irresponsible to ask taxpayers to subsidize a broken commission.”

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Representative Seth Grove
196th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Eric Reath
717.260-6187 /
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