Sometime last summer, Connecticut attorney Karen Lee Torre sparked a few fires with her suggestion to eliminate the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities — the organization charged with, among other duties, investigating and remedying discrimination in the workplace. (You can find my prior posts on the exchange here, here and here.)
The crux of Attorney Torre’s arguments at the time was as follows:
CHRO was and remains crippled by internal race politics with staffers suing each other and maintaining demographic battle lines. It is Afro-centric, politically correct to a grievous fault and brazenly hostile to the civil rights of white males. It is time to dissolve it or at least gut it with a budget that reflects its worth.
This month, the Connecticut Lawyer published an opinion piece written by my colleague, Joshua Hawks-Ladds, in which he suggests another radical change in the CHRO but for different reasons. You can download the article here.
First, he highlights what he believes needs fixing at the CHRO:
Unfortunately, the Commission has become an underfunded, understaffed and perpetually backlogged bureaucracy. Along with many valid discrimination complaints, the Commission’s offices are clogged with specious claims that the Commission is required to investigate. This means that the bona fide discrimination claims against landlords and employers get lost in the morass. Some of the valid claims are removed from the CHRO and litigated in the state and federal courts. However, the many of the claims (over 2,000 are filed each year) languish for years in the agency’s offices. The system is unfair to claimants with bona fide claims, as well as employers and landlords with bona fide defenses.
As a result, he proposes a fix:
a complete overhaul of the Commission’s procedures to mirror the state Department of Labor’s Unemployment Compensation system, with one exception: if either party does not agree with an appeal referee’s decision relating to a charge of discrimination, then that party may appeal that decision, de novo, to the superior court.
It’s a new approach to an old problem. He acknowledges up front that his proposal is likely to be met with opposition from some. But with many people (on both sides of cases) unhappy with the status quo, the time may be right to at least consider something new.
An advisory committee charged with making recommendations about changes to the CHRO has been in the works for many many months now. It’ll be interesting to see what changes they propose to an agency that continues to draw criticism.