Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

Filing a Complaint

If you feel you have experienced illegal discrimination, you can file a complaint or report a bias incident to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Email the PHRC or call your regional office. 

If you feel you have been discriminated against, in general, you have 180 days to file from when the alleged discrimination happened.

How do I file a complaint?

Information about how to file a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

How do I file a complaint?- Spanish

Information abut filing a discrimination complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission

After you file a discrimination complaint:

  • The complaint will be assigned a docket number.
  • The complaint will be served to the respondent (the person you have named in your complaint as responsible for the alleged discrimination) within 30 days of the date of docketing.
  • The respondent is required to answer your complaint no more than 60 days after the date it was served.
  • The respondent is required to provide you with a copy of their answer.
  • The PHRC will also file your employment complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your allegations are protected under federal laws. 

Investigative Process

Your filed complaint will be investigated by a PHRC investigator.

  • Make your investigator fully aware of details.
  • Answer all the questions you are asked, even if you think the answer might weaken your complaint. Your investigator will be better prepared if such information is discussed by the respondent. 
  • Ensure names, dates, places, and addresses are as accurate as possible.
  • Make available to your investigator any witnesses or documents that may help prove your charges (e.g., payroll slips or rent receipts).
  • The PHRC has the power to subpoena relevant witnesses and documents, if necessary.

Keep your investigator advised of any change in your or your attorney's address, email, telephone number.

Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone from taking any action against:

  • You, because you have filed a complaint.
  • A witness who has testified or assisted in a PHRC proceeding.
  • Anyone who has otherwise opposed any practice forbidden by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).

This is called retaliation, and the law protects those who oppose illegal behavior.


The fact-finding conference is often held by the PHRC as early in the process as possible. PHRC staff will conduct the conference, at which you and the respondent present evidence and documents.

  • The fact-finding conference is designed to speed up the investigation and possibly help reach a fair settlement of your complaint.
  • The fact-finding conference is not a public proceeding or hearing.

A fact-finding conference may not be held in your case. There are several reasons why a fact-finding conference may not be held, which include the following:

  • You may choose to settle the case with the respondent.
  • You or the respondent may refuse to participate.
  • The investigator may determine that a conference is not necessary based upon all of the circumstances.

If your complaint is not resolved at the fact-finding conference, or if one is not held, the investigation will continue.

The investigator will:

  • Interview you, the complainant.
  • Interview the respondent.
  • Interview other relevant witnesses.
  • Review all pertinent records and documents obtained through voluntary cooperation or subpoena.

You may be asked to clarify your complaint in light of new information or to rebut the information provided by the respondent. Immediately notify your investigator if you learn or remember any additional information.

The PHRC investigation may:

  • Find no probable cause or lack of jurisdiction and move to dismiss the complaint, or
  • Find probable cause and act to correct the discrimination and its effects.

Cases may also be resolved by a:

  • Voluntary settlement (agreed to by both parties) prior to a formal finding, or
  • An administrative closure (e.g., if you withdraw your case or file in court).

You will be notified by mail if the PHRC dismisses the case. The notice will include any appeal rights you may have.

Within one year after you file a complaint with the PHRC, you may bring action in a Court of Common Pleas if:

  • The complaint has not been resolved.
  • The PHRC dismisses your complaint.


If the investigation establishes probable cause, efforts to conciliate (settle) will take place as soon as possible. The respondent will be asked to:

  • Cease and desist from the specific discriminatory act or practice involved in the complaint, and
  • Implement whatever actions, programs, or compensation the PHRC deems necessary to remedy the discrimination uncovered in the investigation.

If the case has not settled after a probable cause finding, the PHRC may convene a public hearing at which testimony under oath is presented.

  • Your complaint will be represented by a PHRC attorney, or a private attorney if you prefer.
  • A decision will be rendered, and a legally enforceable order issued.
    • This order may be appealed to Commonwealth Court.
  • In certain housing discrimination cases, parties will be permitted to elect court action in Commonwealth Court instead of a PHRC public hearing.

To file a complaint:

A PHRC staff member is available to help you decide whether you would like to file a complaint. Staff can help you draft the complaint and prepare it in legal form for your verified signature, for the following types of complaints: