At Monday’s Connecticut Legal Conference, CHRO Chair Gary Collins spoke for a bit about the developments at the oft-maligned agency since he’s come on board. (You can follow all the tweets from the conference on Twitter using #ctlegalconf as the hashtag.)While he joked that attendees could just read this blog to find out what was going on, he did highlight a few new developments at the agency that are worth sharing here.
- First, he noted that Cheryl Sharp, a 21 year veteran of the agency, was just appointed Deputy Executive Director. Sharp — who received her law degree from UConn Law — is fairly well regarded by both sides of the labor & employment law bar. She is also credited with starting the Kids Speak and Kids Court outreach programs as well.
- Next, he noted that Human Rights Referee Ellen Bromley submitted her resignation last month. No replacement has yet been named. One look at the public hearing calendar for the agency and its clear that in order to maintain some of the gains made in reducing the backlog, one will have to be named relatively soon.
- Mr. Collins also noted that the agency is looking to make some tweaks to Public Act 11-237 — the law that made significant changes to how the CHRO processes discrimination complaints. (For background on that law, see my prior posts starting here.) He encouraged attorneys and other stakeholders to provide him feedback on how changes in the law can help improve the agency.
- Notably, he said that the agency is now closing significantly more cases than a year ago. He indicated that while the agency is still taking in more cases each year than it closes, he hopes that within the next year, that trend will be reversed. He cautioned that he wanted the agency to do so in the right way — not just closing cases solely to meet certain “numbers” or benchmarks.
While I won’t speak for other attendees, Mr. Collins’ outreach should be welcomed. He is genuine in his concern to improve the agency. To that end, here are a few minor suggestions that can be done easily to continue to increase the transparency and visibility of the agency.
- The CHRO started issuing, on a quarterly basis, the “CHRO Times” in 2010 — a newsletter of what was going on. However, that stopped last year. Perhaps, it is just focusing on social media outreach, but it still would be good to hear from the agency on a regular basis about the signficant developments. For example, while Bromley’s resignation was announced at a meeting back in March, it hasn’t been widely publicized. A newsletter or consistent social media posts would help.
- In further transparency, the Executive Director presents a report each month to the CHRO Commissioners. In January, for example, Mr. Collins noted that he wanted a month-to-month report of aged cases included. How about posting that report online when the agenda for the meeting is posted as well?
- Similarly, the statistics should also be posted online. While the CHRO was kind enough to share them with me last fall, this should be something that is also cross-posted on the CHRO website.
The agency still has a lot of work to do to remain relevant and useful. While opinions about the agency are still down among practitioners anecdotally, with a new Executive Director last fall and Mr. Collins’ as its Chair, the agency is certainly far from out.