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Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission begins discrimination mediation program

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on Monday started a mediation program to resolve within 10 days some of the nearly 3,400 employment discrimination complaints filed each year.

“People who believe they have been wronged, as well as employers facing complaints, will get conflicts resolved faster, avoiding lengthy investigations, costly hearings and potential court filings,” said Commission Chairman Gerry Robinson.

There is no cost to those who choose mediation to resolve disputes over state law, and they do not need to hire an attorney, the state said. The process is confidential.

If a settlement is not reached within 10 days, the case will be investigated through normal commission procedures. By law, the state must investigate for at least one year before someone can file a lawsuit claiming discrimination.

State attorneys from other agencies, trained and certified as mediators, will handle cases without cost, said state spokeswoman Shannon Powers.

Complaints over alleged violations of state law are filed with the commission, and complaints over alleged violations of federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Powers said.

There were 3,988 cases of all types filed with the commission from July 1, 2011, to June 30. About 85 percent were for employment discrimination. Other types include housing and education discrimination.

For the year ending June 30, there were 2,027 cases of all types filed through May 31, an unexpected drop, Powers said. There may be a lag in reporting, she said.

About $3 million of the state commission's $12.4 million annual budget comes from the EEOC and Department of Housing and Urban Development for investigation services, Powers said. The commission has 59 investigators.

About 40 percent of the commission's cases are settled each year; 73 percent are resolved within two years. The value of settlements in the year ended June 30, totaled $9.9 million.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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