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§ 959. Procedure

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated StatutesTitle 43 P.S. Labor

Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes
Title 43 P.S. Labor (Refs & Annos)
Chapter 17. Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (Refs & Annos)
43 P.S. § 959
§ 959. Procedure
(a) Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an alleged unlawful discriminatory practice may make, sign and file with the Commission a verified complaint, in writing, which shall state the name and address of the person, employer, labor organization or employment agency alleged to have committed the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of, and which shall set forth the particulars thereof and contain such other information as may be required by the Commission. Commission representatives shall not modify the substance of the complaint. Whenever a person invokes the procedures set forth in this act, the Commission shall refuse to accept for filing a complaint it determines to be untimely with no grounds for equitable tolling, outside its jurisdiction or frivolous on its face. The Commission upon its own initiative or the Attorney General may, in like manner, make, sign and file such complaint. Any employer whose employes, or some of them, hinder or threaten to hinder compliance with the provisions of this act may file with the Commission a verified complaint, asking for assistance by conciliation or other remedial action and, during such period of conciliation or other remedial action, no hearings, orders or other actions shall be taken by the Commission against such employer.
(b)(1) After the filing of any complaint, or whenever there is reason to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice has been committed, the Commission shall make a prompt investigation in connection therewith.
(2) The Commission shall send a copy of the complaint to the named respondent within thirty days from the date of docketing the complaint, unless otherwise required by the Fair Housing Act.
(3) A respondent shall file a written, verified answer to the complaint within thirty days of service of the complaint, unless otherwise required by the Fair Housing Act. The Commission, upon request of the respondent, may grant an extension of not more than thirty additional days, unless otherwise required by the Fair Housing Act.
(4) After service of the complaint, the Commission shall encourage voluntary and informed predetermination settlements between parties.
(c) If it shall be determined after such investigation that no probable cause exists for crediting the allegations of the complaint, the Commission shall, within ten days from such determination, cause to be issued and served upon the complainant written notice of such determination, and the said complainant or his attorney may, within ten days after such service, file with the Commission a written request for a preliminary hearing before the Commission to determine probable cause for crediting the allegations of the complaint. If it shall be determined after such investigation that probable cause exists for crediting the allegations of the complaint, the Commission shall immediately endeavor to eliminate the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of by conference, conciliation and persuasion. The members of the Commission and its staff shall not disclose what has transpired in the course of such endeavors: Provided, That the Commission may publish the facts in the case of any complaint which has been dismissed, and the terms of conciliation when the complaint has been adjusted, without disclosing, except as required by the Fair Housing Act, the identity of the parties involved.
(c.1) The Commission shall dismiss a case with prejudice, before or after a finding of probable cause, where, in its opinion, appropriate remedy has been offered by the respondent and refused by the complainant.
(d) In case of failure so to eliminate such practice or in advance thereof, if in the judgment of the Commission circumstances so warrant, the Commission shall cause to be issued and served a written notice, together with a copy of such complaint as the same may have been amended, requiring the person, employer, labor organization or employment agency named in such complaint, hereinafter referred to as respondent, to answer the charges of such complaint at a hearing before the Commission at a time and place to be specified in such notice. The place of any such hearing shall be in the county in which the alleged offense was committed.
(d.1) When notice of hearing is given as set forth in subsection (d) and an election procedure is required by the Fair Housing Act, either party may elect to have the claim asserted in the complaint decided in a civil action brought under the original jurisdiction of Commonwealth Court. The written notice of the Commission shall be sent to all parties and will inform them of their right to take civil action. An election must be made within twenty days after receipt of the notice of hearing. A party making this election shall notify the Commission and all other parties. If an election for civil action is made by either party, the Commission shall, within thirty days from the date of election, commence and maintain a civil action on behalf of the complainant provided, however, that, whenever the Attorney General signs and files the complaint pursuant to subsection (a), the Attorney General shall, within thirty days from the date of election, commence and maintain a civil action on behalf of the complainant. In those cases commenced by the Attorney General, the Commission shall have the right to intervene. In any action brought under this subsection:
(1) All filing fees shall be waived for the Commission and all parties, including the action brought under Commonwealth Court's original jurisdiction and any appeal arising out of such action.
(2) If, after a trial, Commonwealth Court finds that a respondent engaged in or is engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the court may award attorney fees and costs to the complainant on whose behalf the action was commenced.
(3) If, after a trial, Commonwealth Court finds that a respondent has not engaged in or is not engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the court may award attorney fees and costs to the prevailing respondent if the respondent proves that the complaint upon which the civil action was based was brought in bad faith.
(4) If, after a trial, the Commonwealth Court finds that a respondent has not engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the court may award attorney fees and costs to the prevailing respondent if the court determines that the complaint is frivolous and that the Commission dealt with the party complained against in a wilful, wanton and oppressive manner, in which case the Commission shall be ordered to pay such costs and attorney fees.
(e) The case in support of the complaint shall be presented before the Commission or before a permanent hearing examiner designated by the Commission for the purpose of hearing said complaint by one of its attorneys or agents, by the complainant's attorney or by a designated agent of the complainant. The respondent may appear at such hearing in person or otherwise, with or without counsel, and submit testimony. The complainant may likewise appear at such hearing in person or otherwise, with or without counsel, and submit testimony. The Commission or the complainant shall have the power reasonably and fairly to amend any complaint, and the respondent shall have like power to amend his answer. The Commission shall not be bound by the strict rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity. The testimony taken at the hearing shall be under oath and be transcribed.
(f)(1) If, upon all the evidence at the hearing, the Commission shall find that a respondent has engaged in or is engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the Commission shall state its findings of fact, and shall issue and cause to be served on such respondent an order requiring such respondent to cease and desist from such unlawful discriminatory practice and to take such affirmative action, including, but not limited to, reimbursement of certifiable travel expenses in matters involving the complaint, compensation for loss of work in matters involving the complaint, hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employes, with or without back pay, admission or restoration to membership in any respondent labor organization, the making of reasonable accommodations, or selling or leasing specified housing accommodations or commercial property upon such equal terms and conditions and with such equal facilities, services and privileges or lending money, whether or not secured by mortgage or otherwise for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, repair or maintenance of housing accommodations or commercial property, upon such equal terms and conditions to any person discriminated against or all persons, and any other verifiable, reasonable out-of-pocket expenses caused by such unlawful discriminatory practice, provided that, in those cases alleging a violation of section 5(d), (e) or (h)1 or 5.32 where the underlying complaint is a violation of section 5(h) or 5.3, the Commission may award actual damages, including damages caused by humiliation and embarrassment, as, in the judgment of the Commission, will effectuate the purposes of this act, and including a requirement for report of the manner of compliance.
(2) Such order may also assess a civil penalty against the respondent in a complaint of discrimination filed under sections 5(h) or 5.3 of this act:
(i) in an amount not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) if the respondent has not been adjudged to have committed any prior discriminatory practice;
(ii) in an amount not exceeding twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed one other discriminatory practice during the five-year period ending on the date of this order; or
(iii) in an amount not exceeding fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) if the respondent has been adjudged to have committed more than one other discriminatory practice during the seven-year period ending on the date of this order.
If, however, the acts constituting the discriminatory practice that is the object of the charge are committed by the same natural person who has been previously adjudged to have committed acts constituting a discriminatory practice, then the civil penalties set forth in subparagraphs (ii) and (iii) may be imposed without regard to the period of time within which any subsequent discriminatory practice occurred.
(3) When the respondent is a licensee of the Commonwealth, the Commission shall inform the appropriate State licensing authority of the order with the request that the licensing authority take such action as it deems appropriate against such licensee. An appeal from the Commission's order shall act as a supersedeas and stay such action by the State licensing authority until a final decision on said appeal.
(4) If, upon all the evidence, the Commission shall find that a respondent has not engaged in any such unlawful discriminatory practice, the Commission shall state its findings of fact, and shall issue and cause to be served on the complainant an order dismissing the said complaint as to such respondent.
(f.1) If, upon all the evidence at the hearing, in those cases alleging a violation of section 5(d), (e), (h) or 5.3 where the underlying complaint is a violation of section 5(h) or 5.3, the Commission finds that a respondent has engaged in or is engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the Commission may award attorney fees and costs to prevailing complainants.
(f.2) If, upon all the evidence at the hearing, in those cases alleging a violation of section 5(d), (e), (h) or 5.3 where the underlying complaint is a violation of section 5(h) or 5.3, the Commission finds that a respondent has not engaged in or is not engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this act, the Commission may award attorney fees and costs to a prevailing respondent if the respondent proves that the complaint was brought in bad faith.
(g) The Commission shall establish rules of practice to govern, expedite and effectuate the foregoing procedure and its own actions thereunder. Three or more members of the Commission or a permanent hearing examiner designated by the Commission shall constitute the Commission for any hearing required to be held by the Commission under this act. The recommended findings, conclusions and order made by said members or permanent hearing examiner shall be reviewed and approved or reversed by the Commission before such order may be served upon the parties to the complaint. The recommended findings, conclusions and order made by said members or permanent hearing examiner shall become a part of the permanent record of the proceeding and shall accompany any order served upon the parties to the complaint.
(h) Any complaint filed pursuant to this section must be so filed within one hundred eighty days after the alleged act of discrimination, unless otherwise required by the Fair Housing Act.
(i) Any complaint may be withdrawn at any time by the party filing the complaint.
(j) At any time after the filing of a complaint, the Commission shall dismiss with prejudice a complaint which, in its opinion, is untimely with no grounds for equitable tolling, outside its jurisdiction or frivolous on its face.

Credits

1955, Oct. 27, P.L. 744, § 9. Amended 1961, Feb. 28, P.L. 47, No. 19, § 3; 1965, Dec. 27, P.L. 1225, No. 498, § 1; 1967, Oct. 11, P.L. 425, No. 190, § 1; 1982, Dec. 9, P.L. 1053, No. 247, § 3, effective in 60 days; 1986, Dec. 16, P.L. 1626, No. 186, § 10, imd. effective; 1991, Dec. 20, P.L. 414, No. 51, § 7, imd. effective; 1997, June 25, P.L. 326, No. 34, § 3, effective in 60 days.

Footnotes

43 P.S. § 955.
43 P.S. § 955.3.
43 P.S. § 959, PA ST 43 P.S. § 959
Current through 2022 Regular Session Act 20. Some statute sections may be more current, see credits for details.
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