Imagine there’s no …..

A few years ago it would have been unfathomable to be considering life in Connecticut without a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.  After all, it is a necessary step in filing a discrimination complaint in this state.

Imagining a Connecticut without the CHRO? No way.

But suddenly, dramatically, here we are.   With the union concession package widely expected to be voted down later Friday morning, we’re into uncharted territory.  And, there are a lot of questions still to be answered.

First, will Governor Malloy actually shut down the agency? That’s unknown, though closing it down was among the various list of cuts proposed back in May. Resulting savings are over $6M.  Pure speculation among lawyers at the CBA Annual Meeting yesterday about whether that would happen was split, though some type of cuts to the agency would certainly seem likely.

Shutting down the agency would be relatively easy compared to what might happen afterwards, though.

For example, what will happen to existing claims at the CHRO? Presumably, the legislature would have to enact legislation that immediately provides those individuals with a “right to sue” in state court.  Some coordination would need to be planned, though, with the EEOC since every claim filed at the CHRO is typically cross-filed with that agency.  Will the EEOC pick up investigating some claims? Given their budget issues, that appears unlikely as well.

Next question: What happens to the statute of limitations? After all, in order for state discrimination claims to proceed, a complainant must file a CHRO complaint within 180 days.  When there’s no complaint to be filed, what happens next? Again, we’ll have to await word from the General Assembly.

But while some have previously called for the elimination of the CHRO, be careful for what may happen next, which is filing of many more lawsuits against employers that would otherwise have been handled by the agency.  Indeed, if all those cases went to court, you could see an 5-8 percent rise in the number of cases in our court system.  On the flip side, the courts are likely to be so overwhelmed with new claims with diminishing resources, that cases may drag on and on there.

What’s the Takeaway for Employers?

The budget battle may hit home in unexpected ways.  Keep up with the developments surrounding the CHRO and stay tuned to see if there are going to be any other cuts to relevant state agencies such as the Department of Labor.

It’s not just job cuts that we are likely to see, but programs and services being eliminated too.

Imagine a world without the CHRO? Ready, Set, …….