By Chadwick Dolgos
Crafton Borough Council revisited a nondiscrimination ordinance allowing residents to file complaints if they believe they have been discriminated against in regards to employment, housing, or receiving public accommodations in the community.
“As someone who was, until recently, able to be fired for being gay, I feel very passionate about this,” Vice President Edward Alo said of the ordinance.
According to Solicitor Steve Korbel, the ordinance is modeled after similar ones passed in both Mt. Lebanon and Ross Township.
The Crafton equal opportunity board would be a newly created board consisting of five members from the community. If somebody in the community were to file a complaint claiming discrimination, it would then go to the board for judgement. The board would hear cases and make their recommendations to the Pennsylvania Human Relations commission based on their findings.
“The board should have its own attorney and their own internal operating procedures,” Korbel added.
If the board finds discriminatory activity, they can then go to common pleas court to get an order to stop if the business has not already ceased the behavior. If a complaint were received and the board found that there was not enough evidence supporting the claim, the individual making the claim can then proceed to sue in the court of common pleas.
The ordinance proposal originated in the fall of last year when then Council President Coletta Perry directed members of the council to draft an anti-discrimation policy to protect the residents of Crafton. The ordinance was presented to the council in late January but lost momentum when the board was forced to focus on COVID-19 related issues.
Another concern stalling the passing of the ordinance was the amount of authority being granted to the board. “There is language in these ordinances that allow for this board to levy fines up to $10,000, $25,000 and $50,00,” said Crafton Manager Russ McKibben, noting that other boards do not possess the authority to administer fines.
The fines are not a mandatory part of the ordinance, said Korbel.
“I think you’re better served going to court and getting a court order to stop the activity than you would be to levy the fine, but we left that to allow those types of options to be left on the table.”
If the council is not interested in forming an equal opportunity board, Korbel said there is another option.
“I know that Mt. Lebanon and Ross had reached out to other entities that investigate other discriminatory practices either at the county or state level, and try to work on a work-sharing agreement.”
While the details of the ordinance discussed Sept. 14 remain to be finalized by the council’s meeting next month, Alo stressed how important an ordinance like this is for the Crafton community and its residents.
“Passing an ordinance like this tells future residents that, as a community, we don’t care if you’re gay, straight, bi, trans, or gender-nonconforming. We don’t care about race, religion, or national origin. We want you to come here and be yourself."