The Connecticut Law Tribune snagged an in-depth interview with new CHRO Executive Director Robert Brothers this week.
in it, Brothers shares his views that the CHRO has made missteps in the past and that he is going to try to turn that around. Among the changes that he is considering are an revamp of the agency’s website and perhaps a shift to e-filing (greatly reducing the amount of paper generated). He also indicated that he is looking for a way to expedite complaints because he believes that the system is taking too long.
Another notable part of the interview focused on the limits to what the CHRO could do:
I think one of the greatest misconceptions of what the commission is, is how much a person can achieve by way of remedies, by way of damages. The commission is limited by statute in what we can recover for damages in employment discrimination cases. In housing cases, you can recover attorney fees. In employment cases, you can’t.
Emotional damages is another area [where CHRO is different from the courts]. It makes it extremely difficult for attorneys who want to pursue [an emotional damages] claim with the commission.
I’m a bit surprised by his last statement regarding emotional distress damages. As I have discussed in an earlier post, the CHRO in recent years has actually seemed more willing to try to find a way to award emotional distress damages despite language from the Connecticut Supreme Court to the contrary.
Does this signal a policy shift at the CHRO? Probably not. But its at least refreshing to hear from an Executive Director who understands the legal issues involved and isn’t afraid to try to discuss them publicly.
If the CHRO is serious about changing its image, here’s one unsolicited suggestion: Have a open-house session with members of the bar to have a frank discussion of legal issues like this one (much like the NLRB has done this week). I’m certain that such a suggestion would be met with enthusiasm from attorneys who practice in the area.