Through a recent FOI request, I was able to take a peek at the latest case statistics coming out of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. (The CHRO has since added them to the website as well.)

I’ve done these recaps in years before (here’s 2016 for example) and I think you can learn a lot not just on the latest statistics but when you compare them to prior years.

So, what do the numbers from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 show?

Well, for the first time in several years, we’ve seen a noticeable decrease in the numbers of complaints filed.

In FY 16-17, 2376 total complaints were filed, down from 2616 the prior year – a 9 percent decrease.  Of course, it’s still up from FY 11-12 when just 1838 total complaints were filed.

And what about employment discrimination complaints in particular?

The report also shows a drop in the number of complaints being filed, 1936, as compared to 2160 in the prior fiscal year.  That represents over a 10 percent drop. Again, however, it’s still up from FY 2012 when just 1559 employment claims were filed.

After years of marked increases, it’s nice to confirm what we have been seeing internally — that discrimination claims seems to be on the decline.

It’s difficult to know exactly why; we had seen increases the last few years at a national EEOC level too, but these new statistics from the CHRO show that the trendline up has finally broken.

Certainly the improved economy seems one factor but it’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues.

I’ll have a deeper dive into the statistics in an upcoming post.

franklinSo, in my prior two posts about the new case statistical reports from the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, I’ve looked at the case statistics to see that harassment and terms & conditions claims are up, and that ancestry, race & color claims filed are also up.

But what else can we glean from these numbers?

First, according to the reports, there are a lot more cases pending at the agency than in the last couple of years resulting in a big backlog of cases.  Specifically, there are 2670 active and pending cases at the agency by the end of the fiscal year. Contrast that with just 757 in 2014, and 209 in 2013.

That means that employers are likely to have many more of these cases floating around and they are moving at the proverbial snail’s pace.  Clearly, if these numbers are right, something isn’t working at the agency.

Second, there has been a (very modest) increase the number of referee decisions at the CHRO — ostensibly being that more cases are being tried through a public hearing.  But before you draw many conclusions, the numbers are still paltry.  In 2015, just 16 cases had a referee decision. That’s up from six in 2014 and three in 2013.

Nonetheless, the calendar schedule for contested hearings looks busy for the rest of the year so it remains to be seen whether this process will continue at the same levels.

Finally, for those that think that every case is a battle that is won or lost, think again. The plurality of cases at the agency alone are still closed through settlement. In 2015, 968 out of 2334 case closures came through a withdrawal with settlement.  And that doesn’t account for the 543 cases that are “released” from jurisdiction so that employees may file in court directly (and whether those cases are settled too).

In short, for employers, the process at the CHRO is slow and you’re still likely to end up trying to settle the case more often than not.

Statistics don’t tell us everything; but to ignore the numbers here is a mistake. Employers do best when they understand and adapt to today’s trends and not simply go by how things were 10 to 15 years ago.

Because the change has been substantial.

Numbers everywhere
Numbers everywhere

As I noted on Friday, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities has, at long last, released case statistics for 2014-2015 fiscal year and has updated their statistics for the last several years.

As a result, there are lots of new numbers to pore over and information to be gleaned.

The biggest takeaway? The number of discrimination complaints filed with the agency is up — and up big over the last few years.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, 2482 complaints were filed state-wide, up from 2172 the year before and up from a low of 1838 just three years ago.

For those playing at home, that translates to a whopping 35% increase in discrimination complaints from FY2012 to FY2015.

Now, not all complaints filed with the CHRO are employment-related. But even those employment discrimination complaints are also up big.  In FY2015, 2017 employment complaints were filed, up from 1817 the year prior and up from 1559 three years ago.

Thus, employment complaints are up 29 percent in the past three years, and up 11 percent in the last year alone.

Given the improving economy and the corresponding drop in claims at the federal level, these state statistics are pretty surprising.

Diving deeper in the numbers, raises more eyebrows.  Where is this increase coming from?

  • Age claims? 503 in 2014 vs. 505 in 2015. Nope.
  • Sexual orientation claims? 62 in 2014 vs. 51 in 2015. A decrease.
  • Sex claims? 544 in 2014 vs. 575 in 2015. A modest increase.
  • Physical disability? 450 in 2014 vs. 484 in 2015. Again a modest increase.

But a few areas stand out:

  • Ancestry? 133 in 2014 vs. 189 in 2015. A huge increase of 42 percent!
  • Color? 409 in 2014 vs. 480 in 2015. Another big increase of over 17 percent.
  • Race? 538 in 2014 vs. 596 in 2015.  An increase of 11 percent, consistent with the overall trend.
  • National origin? 218 in 2014 vs. 258 in 2015.  A corresponding increase of over 18 percent.

Thus, while the statistics can only tell part of the story, it is apparent that claims for race, color, ancestry and national origin all account for a substantial part of the increase.

What does this mean for employers? What else can we glean from the statistics? Why are complaints going up in a relatively good economy?

I’ll tackle these questions and more in upcoming posts.

The CHRO is screaming for a reboot - like Star Trek
The CHRO Complaint Process is screaming for a reboot – like Star Trek

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities from both attorneys and clients. And I’ve come to one conclusion:

The CHRO Complaint Procedure needs a reboot.

Now, before you dismiss this as a critical column – let’s be clear. I like many reboots.  Sure, the Superman Returns movie paled in comparison to the Christopher Reeve version, but I thought the new Star Trek reboot was pretty snazzy.

Why do movies go through reboots? Because the formula that had worked for the movie series for so long has just stopped working.

Think George Clooney in Batman & Robin and then the reboot with Christian Bale.

And right now, the process that the CHRO has created is just not working. It’s not working for individuals, it’s not working for companies and, I believe, it’s not really working well for the agency itself.  (And note too that I’m not suggesting the agency itself needs a reboot — though some have argued for that — rather, it’s the process as mandated by the law that this post is addressing.)

A reboot doesn’t mean failure; it doesn’t mean to throw out the entire formula. The agency has made some good strides on public outreach, for example, under the new leadership team.  It is closing cases at a good clip and the mediation process seems better than in years past with dedicated staff just for mediations.

And I wouldn’t go so far as to say we live in a post-modern age where it has completely outlived its usefulness.

But the complaint procedure which was reworked a few years ago just isn’t working for anyone. Here’s why:

Continue Reading The CHRO Complaint Process Needs A Reboot

This post continues my public service outreach on a program developed by the Connecticut Bar Foundation.

As I mentioned earlier this month, I am chairing what I expect will be a terrific educational program on April 9th at UConn Law School on how technology is changing the practice of law. Full details to this free program are available here.  We hope this symposium will sell out, so please register today (did I mention it includes breakfast and lunch and is FREE?). 

We’ve spread the word through conventional means (ads, e-mails, mailings) but there are still many others who we think will benefit from this (particularly for those out-of-state who would like to see the webinar). Thus, we’re going to try to use the power of social media to do so.  We need your help.

Here’s how you can help:

Everyone knows (or should know) of at least one U.S. Supreme Court case.  It could be a favorite case, a notable one, or even an obscure one.   We thought it would be fun to try to summarize, comment on, or write something pithy on that Supreme Court case.  But there’s a catch.  Can you do so in 140 characters or less; in other words, in a "tweet" that you can post to Twitter? 

What do we mean? Take these examples:

  • Brown v. Bd of Ed: Remember Plessy v. Ferguson? We don’t know what we were thinking. Yes, separate schools are inherently unequal #cbftech
  • What would Law & Order be without its most common phrase "You Have the Right to Remain Silent"? Thank you Miranda v. AZ #cbftech
  • Roe v. Wade: The decision that determined how George Washington got across the Delaware River #cbftech

Ok, so the last one might not pass muster, but hopefully you’re getting the idea (and we’ll explain the hashtag below).  In essence, we’re asking you to come up with your favorite Supreme Court summary tweet.  We’ll be asking all of our presenters at the symposium to come up with their favorite "tweet" of a Supreme Court case and will share them with you as well. I’ve already seen a few and you have your work cut out for you.

So how do you participate? A few simple steps:

  • First, using any Twitter account, just "tweet" or post your summary.  It can be serious, funny, pithy, cute, whatever you wish.  But it has to be on Twitter. No e-mails or comments to this post will be included in the contest though you are welcome to add one. (For tips on how to get started on Twitter, click here.)
  • Next, and this is critical, you MUST use the hashtag (or symbol) of #cbftech for your tweet. This hashtag is being used to promote the Connecticut Bar Foundation symposium and is the official tag for the conference. In addition to spreading the word about the free educational conference, it will also allow us to keep track of the tweets.
  • You can enter as many tweets as you’d like. In fact, we hope to spread the word about this contest so tweet early and often!  But only tweets made by midnight of April 2, 2010 will count towards to the contest.  We will announce the winner at the symposium on April 9, 2010. 
  • By participating in this contest, you allow the Bar Foundation to re-tweet or publicize or use, in any way, without any compensation or further permission, the tweets in any future publication or for any other purpose.  Of course, we will attempt to link each tweet with the Twitter user name (for examples of this, David Pogue did a Twitter contest as well.)
  • A winner (or winners) will be chosen in the sole discretion of myself and members of the symposium committee. Our decision is final and we reserve the right to modify the rules as necessary to ensure that this runs smoothly.
  • The prize or prizes are still being finalized.  But it won’t be an iPad or anything close; this is a non-profit educational foundation we’re talking about. Besides, shouldn’t just being named the "winner" be a prize enough? (Scratch that, we’d probably want an iPad as well.)
  • If you’d like to track all the entries, you can search on Twitter for the hashtag #cbftech. This should also work on Google!

Sound fun? We think so. So, take a minute to spread the word about this great contest and tweet away! And don’t forget to register for this terrific program on April 9th. 

Earlier this year, a case out of New Haven caused quite a stir at the Second Circuit when it addressed (or, as some people believe, failed to address) a reverse discrimination case. 

Now, word comes that the firefighters who lost the case are seeking to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide the issue by asking the nation’s highest court to review the matter. Doug Malan, from the The Connecticut Law Tribune reports:

A group of 20 New Haven firefighters are pushing to have the nation’s highest court determine if the city discriminated against them when it denied promotions despite high test scores. For some of the men, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on whether to hear their case will determine whether the firefighters remain in what they believe to be dead-end jobs due to their skin color.

After a divided Second Circuit this summer turned down the firefighters’ appeal, national law firms and advocacy groups have lined up to assist the New Haven parties on both sides.

The plaintiff firefighters in Ricci v. DeStefano allege that they are victims of a system that was changed in midstream to favor black firefighters over white and Hispanic ones and that they have been blocked from attaining fire lieutenant and captaincy ranks. In 2004, the city of New Haven told its Civil Service Commission to stop administering two written exams that were used to determine the most qualified candidates for promotion because too few minority candidates were advancing. City officials feared a lawsuit would be filed by minorities under the federal Civil Rights Act.

Although the case was originally set for a conference on September 29, 2008, that date has been extended.  A check of the Supreme Court’s docket does not yet give an indication on when the court will review the matter and determine whether to take the case.  But given the other matters under consideration, it is not unreasonable to expect a ruling on whether to accept the case by the end of the year.

The case is notable for employers in Connecticut because there aren’t a lot of reverse discrimination cases out there. If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, it is likely that there will be some new guidance about what is, and is not, appropriate in such cases.