Changes Proposed At The Chro

Connecticut employees may not be aware that the some of the state laws covering their employment are some of the most progressive and protective in the country. Some are more protective than federal law.

For example, Connecticut anti-discrimination laws include sexual orientation and allow suits against individuals, such as discriminatory supervisors, while the federal Title VII statute does not. Employers with as few as three or more employees are covered while federal laws such as Title VII and the ADA, (Americans With Disabilities Act), mandates only those employers with fifteen or more employees are covered.

During this legislative season, certain bills are under consideration which would revise Connecticut anti-discrimination law, including the damages available at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, (CHRO), the first stop before an employee plaintiff can go to court.

At the CHRO, although there is limited discovery, there is an opportunity for settlement. The Busca Law Firm settled one such case three weeks ago. If settlement fails, a case normally proceeds to the fact-finding stage where the case is assigned to a CHRO investigator. Normally, at this stage, a case will languish until a fact-finding hearing is scheduled.

Pro se complainants, i.e., employees who file their own complaint/have the CHRO draft their complaint and represent themselves at the CHRO are at a tremendous disadvantage. They have no idea of the CHRO procedure or the burden of proof they must sustain to have their case have merit. However, those complainants who hire attorneys have a tremendous advantage. The 2011 revisions to the law allow an employee to remove his case from the CHRO after 180 days at the Commission.

Why would an employee want to remove his case from the CHRO and get it into court? Simple. The damages available for keeping a case at the CHRO all the way to a public hearing before a hearing referee are limited. For example, under current case law, emotional distress damages and attorney fees are not available to a prevailing employee complainant. However, a proposed revision to the CHRO statutes is being considered which could change that.

Senate Bill 1164 makes numerous changes throughout the CHRO statutes and other anti- discrimination laws, including providing a right to not only people who claim to have been injured by a discriminatory practice but to those who believe they will be injured by such a practice about to occur

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