Pittsburgh Gov Guide, A website of The Pittsburgh Foundation
A panorama of Pittsburgh at dusk taken from the North Shore. Photo by Dave DiCello.

Commission on Human Relations

The Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (“PghCHR” or the “Commission”) is an independent Commission that enforces and ensures civil rights protections within the City of Pittsburgh. Sections 216 through 218 of Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter established the PghCHR and Title 6, Article V, Chapters 651 through 659, of the Pittsburgh City Code further detail and outline the PghCHR’s authority, as well as civil and human rights protections within the City. Additionally, per contracts with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEOC), the PghCHR enforces federal anti-discrimination law in housing and employment.

The Commission consists of 15 volunteer Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council. They serve four-year terms.

PghCHR investigates complaints of alleged discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and the provision of City services. It can also initiate its own complaints against persons and entities, and can investigate any conditions, which it believes, is having an adverse effect on “intergroup relations.” Additionally, the Commission reviews findings and recommendations of staff, conducts confidential mediation/conciliation meetings, approves of and/or enters into mediation/conciliation agreements, holds private fact-finding meetings, subpoenas evidence and/or witnesses and interviews witnesses. It may hold public hearings, which could result in findings of fact that are legally enforceable orders. The Commission also provides outreach and education services regarding rights and responsibilities under the Fair Practices Ordinances (PCC: 651-659). These functions are performed within the following program areas:

  • Unlawful Practices Administration and Enforcement: As provided in the City Code, the Commission's mandate is to receive, investigate and adjudicate complaints of discriminatory practices in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. This Office is also charged with the responsibility for the receipt, investigation and adjudication of complaints alleging civil rights violations by City employees in the exercise of their duties as City employees. The Commission is charged with seeking the satisfactory resolution or adjustment of all complaints through negotiation, mediation, and conciliation.
  • Inter-Group/Police Community Relations: The Commission studies, investigates, holds public hearings and conciliates issues in the community that adversely affect inter-group relations, negatively impact the livability of city neighborhoods and lead to civil unrest.
  • Education and Outreach: The Commission provides information on the laws it enforces and its work in the area of community relations through the use of a wide variety of tools, including presentations and programs specifically targeted to reach the particular needs of all segments of the population, including the City workforce. These services complement the Commission's work in the area of enforcement and serve to reduce prejudice, enhance inter-group relations, increase understanding of our need for unity and bring about a greater level of awareness and compliance with the law.

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More about the Commission on Human Relations

Below is a list of content in the Commission on Human Relations' Transition Brief (prepared by Thomas Consulting Group for The Pittsburgh Foundation). 


  • Lack of true independence. The Commission has produced several investigative and policy results for the City for a number of years despite disruptions in the level of staff, funding and Commissioners. As has already been noted, the Commission is quasi-independent, with all of its members being direct mayoral appointment. More impactful, however, is its lack of financial independence. The City of Pittsburgh currently spends $2 million or more in its operating budget on initiatives that are intended to advance civil rights and equity. Despite momentum to address racial inequity, the Commission receives less than a quarter of these funds and was denied dedicated staff to address discrimination in City Hall. There is a need to explore the best model and structure for the Commission based on best practices. Support for this finding can be found in a Commissions report entitled, “Civil Rights Agenda for a New Administration: Priorities from the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.”  View source.
  • Lack of support from the Bureau of Police. The Department of Public Safety (DPS), particularly the Bureau of Police (PBP), has made significant progress toward compliance with the laws and standards of our city, but work remains to be done. When this department is not held to the same standards and laws of the rest of the City, public safety itself suffers. To guarantee that all people in Pittsburgh feel safe and protected, the DPS must accelerate its push toward equal access and compliance with anti-discrimination laws. PCC § 653.05 outlining the Commission’s powers and duties give the agency the power to “request other departments, boards and commissions of the City government to assist in the performance of its duties, and such other departments, boards and commissions shall cooperate fully with the Commission.”  Unfortunately, where police officers become involved, departments have struggled to cooperate with the Commission’s investigations. DPS and its Bureau of Police must be accountable to its people in the maintenance of their civil rights. Support for this finding can be found in the Commission’s report entitled, “Civil Rights Agenda for a New Administration: Priorities from the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.”  View source.


  • Enabling Legislation.
  • Mission.
  • Organizational Chart.
  • Budget.
  • Programs & Projects.
  • Opportunities & Risks.
  • Reports.

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