Mayor Michael A. Nutter transmitted a bill to City Council, later introduced by City Councilman Bill Greenlee, that would modernize the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing.
While the ordinance has been amended in the past, a comprehensive update is long overdue. The proposed overhaul of the ordinance accomplishes three primary goals: creating greater capacity for enforcement by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, extending protections to new classes of Philadelphians and updating the language of the ordinance to make it more accessible.
The Fair Practices Ordinance is enforced by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, which was created in 1951, as the first local official human relations agency in the United States
“This bill is about justice and fairness for all Philadelphians. Our great city is the birthplace of liberty in America, and it’s essential that we champion and protect the rights of all Philadelphians to be free from discrimination,” said Mayor Nutter. “I thank Councilman Greenlee for partnering with the Administration to guarantee that the civil rights of all Philadelphians are protected.”
Among the many changes proposed, the bill:
- Streamlines the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations’ procedures for accepting, investigating and adjudicating complaints;
- Increases penalties for discrimination from $300 to the maximum allowance of $2,000;
- Expands remedies available to victims of discrimination;
- Extends protections to cover discrimination based upon genetic information, domestic or sexual violence victim status, or familial status;
- Provides greater protection for members of the LGBT community who lack protection under federal and state law;
- Extends existing housing protections to cover all property, including commercial uses;
- Provides greater consistency with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
“The rewrite of the Fair Practices Ordinance, which is now consistent with federal and state law, offers us a chance to clearly and explicitly extend civil rights protections to all Philadelphians,” said Councilman Greenlee. “I am proud to introduce this legislation and to extend the protection of the law to all those who live and work in Philadelphia.”
“All Philadelphians will benefit from the increased clarity and protection that the new Ordinance provides,” added Kay Kyungsun Yu, Chair of the PCHR. “This new bill streamlines Philadelphia’s civil rights laws and further empowers the Commission to combat wrongful discrimination and promote fairness, equality, and justice throughout the City.”
Said Rue Landau, the PCHR’s Executive Director: “Our City deserves a civil rights law that truly protects against the current realities of discrimination faced by Philadelphians. This bill makes significant steps toward providing that protection.”
The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) is the City agency that enforces civil rights laws and deals with all matters of inter-group conflict within the city. It was established under the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and is mandated by Charter to enforce the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and the delivery of City services.