How can the Human Relations Commission in Pennsylvania have so much power – especially since they are not elected?

August 24 – The Human Relations Commission in Pennsylvania was created in 1955 and has nine members. 

Their website says:  All of us at the PHRC – staff, leadership and Commissioners – take very seriously our legal and moral obligation to those who have been aggrieved. We stand ready daily to confront hateful acts and to help heal individuals and communities across the commonwealth that have been impacted by discrimination. 

Keep in mind, these are not elected officials on this commission and a number of people wonder if the rules they create really have any teeth?

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM noted, “I don’t think anyone ever anticipated how much power was going to go into these things. This is an unelected body of so-called experts in ethics and things like that. They’ve now expanded unbelievably, the definition of what’s considered part of our civil rights, the way we have to look at civil rights in Pennsylvania, including all the new ways out there gender and going overboard on certain racial components. This is going to be a problem though, because we know states that have done this legislatively are going to be challenged by this.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “The Human Relations Commission put out regulations about a year ago, I believe, and now this month, their protections, LGBTQIA, I’m not sure how far it goes on the letter trail, those protections are coming in under the Human Relations Commission. We’ve seen in other states where the legislature has acted. Why did they do this through the Human Relations Commission, the bureaucrats, and the administrative state? It was because legislatively, we refused to add these non-discrimination definitions, and so they did it this route. Other states have done it through a legislative route, a legal route, which would have, you would think, a lot more teeth, but those states even are having challenges to what they’re doing. Now, this has what I would claim is very little or no force of law because there was no law that authorized this. This was never passed by elected legislatures. So very frankly, I think any challenge to this in a court of law would end up seeing this overturned because we as a legislature never acted on it.” 

A real world example would be someone making a claim to the PA Human Relations Commission because they didn’t like how they were treated at a small business in, say, Chambersburg. 

Kauffman said, “The Human Relations Commission would come in, ideally, I guess, and investigate and make a determination as to if they are guilty of some kind of discriminatory activity.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “If you don’t have laws, and you’re not someone that’s been installed by the legislature, why would I even bother answering their calls or letting them in?”

Kauffman suggested, “That would be a case that they could make, is that you have no authority of law. Why would I even entertain your inquiry? What you would see happen, though, is then they would make some kind of declaratory judgment because you were non-cooperative, and then they would take it through their process, have some kind of action against you, financial, likely, legal action against you. It would be a legal fight, though. I mean, that’s the thing, it would be a fight, for instance, will like we’ve seen taken to the US Supreme Court by I believe Colorado bakers, t-shirt makers, folks who have challenged their state’s action against them in the court.”

Ryan said, “But it’s not even a challenge.” 

Jansen pointed out, “They will be put through a process, though, that will cost them money, potentially reputation, so they’re going to be scared to not comply.” 

Ryan said, “So don’t even pick up the phone. You’re not even legally bound. What’s the defense there?”

Kauffman said, “The key is, though, you’re still going to be run through the process and you’re still going to have them come after you all the way. There have been business people in some of these leftist states who have been virtually bankrupted by the state with the legal action against them.” 

Jansen said, “This is where the administrative state is dangerous. It sets up a process issue.” 

Kauffman noted, “The reality is this is going to be a battle in the courts. Because of what we are dealing with in Harrisburg, as the House minority, we have no ability to undo what they are doing by the administration.”

Ryan concluded, “Elections have consequences.”