The Dickson City Human Relations Commission was established on Feb. 14, 2017 after borough council unanimously approved the ordinance creating it.

I presented the ordinance to address the lack of federal and state laws that did not protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression was presented to council in 2016. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey wrote a letter of support for the ordinance, which was presented to council by his aide at the time, Kristen Magnotta.

The ordinance created a commission with three representatives appointed by council. The volunteers have three-year, overlapping terms. Their job is to promote compliance with the borough’s non-discrimination laws.

The Human Relations Commission mediates, investigates, holds and adjudicates LGBTQ-related complaints and mediates all other complaints relating to discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; family status; color; religion; ancestry; age; national origin, physical and/or mental disability; the use of guide or support animals by a person or trainer.

Everyone should know their rights. You cannot be discriminated against by employers with four or more employees in terms, conditions and privileges of employment which includes hiring, promotions, work assignments and firing. They cannot subject you to on-the-job harassment.

Some pre-employment questions that should be avoided because of potential for discriminatory use.

  • Asking for a date of birth or age is unlawful.
  • Asking about availability for weekend work. If this is asked, the employer should indicate that a reasonable effort is made to accommodate religious needs of employees. The employers have some duty to accommodate and must show that a requested religious accommodation would present an actual undue hardship.
  • Date of public school attendance. It is illegal to ask for dates of elementary and high school attendance. It is legal to ask if you have a high school education, but not how many years of high school you completed. This question includes attainment of a GED.

Other examples of unlawful inquiries are whether you have a disability that would interfere with your job, how many sick days you took last year, if you’ve ever filed for workers’ compensation and what prescription drugs you’re taking. Other examples can be found on the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission website.

We want to provide community outreach and education to residents, businesses, employers and institutions about their rights and duties under the ordinance.

The Commission will sponsor community education events to promote compliance with the ordinance but most of all build a more welcoming and inclusive community.

We developed a Facebook Page and celebrated Black History Month in February. March is Women’s History Month, so we posted about female trailblazers including State Rep. Marion Munley. Following her husband’s death in 1947, she became the first woman to represent Lackawanna County in Harrisburg.

We are excited to host a community-wide virtual event to be held on April 7 at 6:30 pm. Gisele Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Second Lady, will address the commission in a virtual event open to the public.

Fetterman arrived in the U.S., along with her mother and younger brother as undocumented immigrants from Brazil, escaping a violent country. She learned English by watching Mr. Rodgers.

Gisele became a citizen in 2009. She is an advocate of women’s and LGBTQ rights, immigration reform and the marginalized of society. Her activism and philanthropic works are well known especially around Braddock, where she, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and their 3 children live.

Gisele Fetterman will speak on her life as an undocumented immigrant, being Second Lady of Pennsylvania and her activism as well as how we can all make a difference.

The event will be held on the Go To Meeting platform and the link will be posted on both the Dickson City Borough Facebook page and the Dickson City Human Relations Commission Facebook page. For more information, contact me at judiedchrc@gmail.com.