To bring state law employment discrimination claims to court, it is well-known that an employee has to first file the claim with the state agency responsible for investigating the claim (the CHRO) (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-101(a)). And most people believe that all the employee has to do is then wait for the CHRO to issue a "release of jurisdiction" to the employee, and then file a claim in Superior Court within 90 days of receipt of the release (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-101(e)).
But a recent Superior Court case reminds us of another limitation on the ability of individuals to bring claims in Superior Court that is found in another section, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-102. That statute states that:
Any action brought in accordance with section 46a-100 shall be brought within two years of the date of filing of the complaint with the commission.
Thus, even if the individual gets a release of jurisdiction, the employee must STILL file a claim of discrimination in Superior court within two years of the original filing of the claim with the CHRO.
In Wright v. Teamsters Local 559 (2009 WL 242401) (available via Westlaw only), the labor union challenged the subject matter jurisdiction of a member to bring a discrimination claim against it on these grounds.
The procedural history of that case is straightforward: The plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the CHRO on October 12, 2004, alleging he was the victim of race and color discrimination. Over seventeen months later, on or about April 4, 2006, the plaintiff amended his administrative complaint to add a new claim of age discrimination. On August 28, 2006, the plaintiff received a release of jurisdiction from the CCHRO and, thereafter, on November 28, 2006, he filed a claim in Superior Court
The employee did not dispute the timeliness of the underlying discrimination claim, but claimed that the filing of an amended complaint should restart the statute of limitations period. The Superior Court held that the age discrimination claim related back to the other discrimination claims:
The court finds that the plaintiff’s age discrimination claim in the amended complaint relates back to the original complaint: it involves the very same set of alleged facts and actors as the race and color claims; it involves the same claims of harm and injury; and it is based on the very same statutory subsection. It is in effect, the same cause of action.
The case is a strong reminder to employers that the procedural requirements for filing claims must be strictly followed by individuals bringing discrimination claims against it. And with the delays at the CHRO investigative stage as long as they are, this statute is one that should not be overlooked in defending claims of discrimination.