Employment law posters highlighting new pregnancy protections now translated 

PHILADELPHIA, April 30, 2014 – For people whose primary language is not English, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations has released new materials to help educate them about new protections for workers that are pregnant or new mothers.

In addition to English, PCHR has issued a poster offering a basic explanation of the recent amendments to the Fair Practices Ordinance in Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Haitian Creole, Russian and Khmer. The languages selected are among the most commonly used by non-English speakers in Philadelphia. The posters are available electronically for download on the PCHR site.

In Russian

In Russian

In Spanish

In Spanish

The Fair Practices Ordinance serves as the guiding civil rights legislation for the city and now includes a provision that says employees who are pregnant or recently gave birth can ask for reasonable workplace accommodations without fear of losing their jobs.

Requests generally deemed reasonable under the new law include asking for bathroom or rest breaks, access to water, assistance lifting items or re-assignment with manual labor duties, for example.

The law also explicitly states that accommodations are not to cause an undue burden on employers.


Employers were to offer notification of the law by April 20. PCHR and area chambers of commerce have been helping businesses secure notification posters.

“So many of the people who stand to be impacted by this law are immigrants – either entrepreneurs or low-wage workers – who may not be as familiar with city regulations, let alone new ones,” said Rue Landau, PCHR executive director. “We take our responsibility to educate as seriously as our responsibility to enforce. We know most people don’t want to break the law. More times than not, they just don’t know about it.

“Likewise, for the tens of thousands of women out there doing their best to balance work and motherhood, this is an incredibly important piece of legislation that they need to know about – even if English is not their first language.”

The new provisions are geared toward those who are pregnant, nursing, or in some stage of post-natal recuperation. In January, Mayor Michael A. Nutter enacted the amendment, authored by City Councilman William K. Greenlee. The action added Philadelphia to a list of jurisdictions stretching from California to New York that are reconsidering how to prevent sex discrimination. The sizable numbers of women heading households and cited cases of women working under conditions hazardous to their health for fear of losing their income helped propel action on this issue. PCHR is the local government agency charged with its enforcement.

Walking for peace

Spring is often noted for a time of renewal and reemergence, making it the perfect time to strengthen communal bonds – and the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation.

This year’s walk kicks off at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, 1501 Germantown Ave. and will end at 6 p.m. at West Kensington Ministry, 2140 N. Hancock St.

In its 11th year, the ecumenical event draws hundreds of Philadelphians from an array of faith traditions and invites them to transform themselves from strangers to neighbors through conversation during a serene stroll with multiple stops at various houses of worship.

While synagogues, mosques and churches along with faith leaders feature prominently throughout the event, conversion does not. All faiths – even those questioning the concept – are welcome. The agenda is squarely fixed on considering new ways to achieve peace, starting one neighbor and one neighborhood at a time. PCHR is a longtime supporter of this event.

“People can look at this as ‘hippy trippy,’ but what are the options? What we’re seeking is to be a part of society in an active way,” said Lance Laver, one of the co-founders of the walk and member of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue. “That’s peace work. And we’re enlarging the community that’s doing this work.”

Participants are encouraged to wear white, as a show of unity. All ages are welcome and a bus will be available for those unable to walk the distance.

Peace Walk

The 2014 Interfaith Peace Walk

The walk emerged from the confusing, even dangerous, early days after 9/11 – when anyone seen as “other” automatically drew suspicion. It was an atmosphere that threatened to poison the American ideal. Building on earlier interfaith efforts by Pennsylvania native Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, a band of thoughtful people gathered to replicate peace walks that were budding throughout the country, many inspired by Buddhist monks trekking across America.

“It has exceeded our earlier vision,” said Vic Compher, a member of Tabernacle United Church and another one of the co-founders of the local faith walk. “But that’s the nature of an adventure, going to where you don’t know where you’re going to end up . . . really being side-by-side with the people in these communities and the sacred ground they’ve created.”

What Compher and his compatriots have witnessed flourishing from that ground is hope – in the form of constant work toward improving communities from the ground up. The walk continues to travel to various corners of the city, from Germantown to West Philadelphia and this year in Kensington.

Yet the movement extends beyond just the walk.

A core group gathers monthly at the Al Aqsa Islamic Society, where the idea was hatched among members of the three Abrahamic traditions – Jewish, Islamic and Christian. It has since grown to include Buddhists, secular humanists, Sikhs, Hindus, Baha’i and others to exchange insights, discuss concerns, and, more importantly, viable solutions.

Topics may be the latest developments in Syria or a shooting in Olney, as every ripple can impact the world, Haver said.

During its 11-year history, some three dozen houses of worship have engaged directly, along with a growing list of community organizations that share common goals for creating more peaceful environments, groups as diverse as Mothers in Charge to Heeding God’s Call to the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. Initiatives such as the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia’s Zones of Peace have arisen. And the numbers of people lacing their sneaks has swollen to some 1,000 in some years.

April 2014 has some 20 religious and spiritual observances – from the birth of Lord Swaminarayan for followers of that Hindu tradition to the birth of Guru Nanak for Sikhs to Passover for Jews and Easter for Christians.

In fact, April 27 also serves the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day, a time when people of all backgrounds reflect on the evil that can come when good people do nothing to stop it.

It’s contemplating scenarios such as these and many others that are the real drivers for organizers, not necessarily tallying a huge number of participants, said Linda Toia, who heads the program committee.

“My hope would be that we provide a place and a time of trust, where people feel safe to have the opportunity to interact with each other as human beings, to get underneath some of our distances and see each other as individuals,” Toia said. “We’re all here on this earth at the same time, living together.

“It’s not just about the differences. It’s about finding the commonalities we have with each other.”

Team PCHR reads for a cause

On Friday, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sponsored its 10th annual Read to Me initiative, flooding nearly 120 classrooms at some two dozen Philadelphia public schools with volunteer readers.

PCHR — represented by Commissioner Sarah Ricks, Rue Landau, executive director, Nia Ngina Meeks, director of communications and Naarah Crawley, executive assistant — joined the army of the willing, armed with a copy of Rocket Writes a Story, by Tad Hills. The event drew area CEOs and civic activists, along with Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and members of his team.

Read to Me

Commissioner Sarah E. Ricks, Esq., and her class at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School

Read to Me

Rocket Writes a Story was the 2014 “Read to Me” selection, shared with early learners by Team PCHR

After a morning mixer at the School District of Philadelphia headquarters that offered the volunteers coffee and a firm reminder from GPCC President and CEO Rob Wonderling to “bring out your best bark,” Team PCHR boarded vans and departed for their designated schools, where eager 5- and 6-year-olds awaited.

And they indeed brought their best set of storytelling skills throughout the morning.

Read to Me and Team PCHR

GPCC President Rob Wonderling and Team PCHR: Naarah Crawley, Commissioner Sarah Ricks and Executive Director Rue Landau prep to read to kiddies across the city.

“I had so much fun,” Ricks said. “What a wonderful way to start the day, and the weekend. And the kids were so excited. It was wonderful to have PCHR involved in this effort.”

PCHR reads at McMichael

PCHR’s Naarah Crawley celebrates reading with students at McMichael Elementary School.

Take Your Daughter/Son to Work @ PCHR


Thursday’s visitors got added help from a young helper, as PCHR’s Monica Gonzalez manned the front desk with her daughter, Gabrielle, as part of the national Take Your Daughter/Son to Work initiative. Mom and her mini-Me helped connect those who called or came to the office with information they need to combat discriminatory practices in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Take Your Daughter/Son to Work

PCHR staffer Monica Gonzalez and her daughter, Gabrielle, manned the desk during Take Your Daughter/Son to Work Day.

The dynamic duo opened the day at City Hall with scores of other young people and their parents that gathered to meet with Mayor Michael A. Nutter. He spoke to them about the value of sharing passion and exposure to the next generation, and then took time to greet those extra helpers at the special morning ceremony.

“I wanted her to have the experience of it all, to understand what we do and to meet people,” Gonzalez said. “It’s good for her to see that people like that are accessible. And it’s good for her to know that she can hold these positions one day.”

For Gabrielle, going to City Hall was the highlight of the day — even though she also got to show off her creative side with a dry erase board and markers, too.

“I got to see the mayor, and he said, ‘Hi!’ And he asked me where I went to school,” the second-grader said. “It was fun.”

Student art

A vacation vision, compliments of Gabrielle






PCHR reacts to Mayor Nutter’s order on ICE detentions in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, April 16, 2014 – The Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations was among the many individuals and advocacy organizations on hand today when Mayor Michael A. Nutter issued an executive order that changes immigration policy for the city. Reaction was swift and joyous.

“We certainly applaud the mayor’s decision to issue an executive order that will clearly state the city’s position that all Philadelphians – regardless of immigration status – should be treated fairly and equally,” said Thomas H. Earle, PCHR chair. At issue has been the human and emotional cost of automatic deportations triggered by minor infractions, or even false accusations.

Anecdotes of teenagers involved in skirmishes or men or women driving to work with a broken tail light suddenly in the pipeline of deportation upset and outraged working immigrant families throughout Philadelphia. It also thrust the realities and consequences of immigration policies in urban settings amid thinly stretched police and legal resources into the broader sphere.

End of ICE detainers in Philadelphia

Flanked with City Council members and top-level aides, Mayor Nutter announces his intention to suspend ICE detainers in Philadelphia, to vigorous applause and chants in Spanish and English.

Individuals and advocacy organizations such as One Love Movement, Juntos and the ACLU of Pennsylvania have opposed ICE holds, argued about these potential constitutional violations prompted largely because of someone’s skin color, physical features or accent.

The U.S. Third Circuit of Appeals agreed.

In its ruling last month in Galarza v. Szalczyk, the court decreed that ICE detainers among state and local law enforcement agencies are requests, not mandates. As such, municipalities are free to disregard such detainers, and cannot rely on such requests as excuses to restrict someone’s constitutional rights.

The ruling and the mayor’s executive order clearly delineate local policing from the work of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Rue Landau, PCHR executive director.

“Deportation is a mechanism that can tear apart families, often separating children from a parent who may be the only source of income in the household, causing devastation,” Landau said. “Today, Philadelphia is taking an important step to help retain the fabric of our community.

“All immigrants should be able to come forward as victims and witnesses, be able to use city services – including police services – without fear of deportation,” she added. “And the Philadelphia Police Department should be allowed to focus its efforts on helping to build and strengthen our community.”

Established in 1951, PCHR enforces civil rights laws and helps to diffuse inter-group conflict within the city. Follow its activities on Facebook, Twitter or the Philly: Interwoven blog.

A police perspective

PCHR often gathers insights from a host of partners all focused on the same goal — strengthening the quality of life and opportunity for every Philadelphia resident. In fact, it hosts a monthly Interagency Civil Rights Task Force to help vet issues and guide policy proposals. The task force, made up of  local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and community advocates, works to prevent inter-group tensions and bias crimes throughout Philadelphia by exchanging information and coordinating responses to incidents and crimes.

Dep. Comm. Kevin J. Bethel

Deputy Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel joins the discussion at the PCHR Interagency Civil Rights Task Force at its April meeting.

The April meeting table included familiar faces in this effort, such as U.S. Attorney Robert Reed, Jorge Tuddon of the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia, Kelvin Anderson of the Philadelphia Police Department Advisory Commission, Kathleen Kaderbek of the FBI and Ryan Tack-Hooper of CAIR Philadelphia, among others. It also featured a new one: Deputy Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel of the Philadelphia Police Department.

He gave an overview of the latest policies on interviews, arrests and interrogations as well as thoughts on curbing the school-to-prison pipeline that sees countless young people — largely of color — forfeit their futures before they even begin.

Bethel and the group exchanged anecdotes, dispelling myths and taking notes on how to further improve systems, especially when it comes to perceptions among residents, such as racial profiling and language access concerns.

He welcomed the conversation and ensured everyone in the room that his word is bond, freely sharing his contact details so that a continuous exchange happens beyond this one meeting.

“Talk is good,” Bethel said. “But we need to put action steps in place.”

New PSA!

In case you haven’t been flipping through the dial lately, PCHR has a radio public service announcement about the city’s new pregnancy discrimination law. Listen:

Remember: employers in Philadelphia have until April 20 to share notice with their employees about this new law. Posters are available here.

Radio microphone