The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities released a new set of statistics yesterday (my thanks to CHRO liaison James O’Neill for the update which I had requested a while back). Unlike years past, the statistics this year show some dramatic changes; those changes should have a significant impact on how employers view the agency and the state of affairs in Connecticut.
- First, the number of claims filed (which includes employment law claims as well as other types of discrimination — including housing) with the agency rose 16 percent for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014. The claims rose from 1850 to 2146. After years of modest decline, significantly more claims were filed in the last year. What were the reasons for that increase? That remains to be seen.
- To its’ credit, the CHRO continues to improve on its ratio of closed cases to open cases. Last year the rate was 106%; it edged up slightly to 107%. It closed 2303 cases (as compared with the 2146 cases it opened). That means cases are less likely to linger at the agency.
- But how those cases are being closed should be concerning to employers in some respects. The agency dismissed just 97 cases on Merit Assessment Review (basically, the paper review after the parties submit their initial filings). Compare that with over 800 cases closed on MAR review ten years ago. That means a lot more cases are going to mediation and investigation and cases cost a lot more to defend than in past years.
- And what else does that mean? It means that more cases are also getting settled at the investigation stage. 935 cases were “withdrawn with a settlement” last year. Compare that with just 481 over ten years ago. For employers, even the cases that would be deemed as without merit years ago are getting some type of settlement now. Again, an increase in costs for employers.
Unfortunately, the statistics don’t yet show how many cases were found to have “reasonable cause” to proceed to a public hearing, nor how many cases were the subject of early legal invention as well.
What’s interesting as well is that the increase is consistent with the increase in claims at the EEOC for claims filed in Connecticut as well. Over the last five years, the number of EEOC claims in Connecticut has risen by 53 percent (from 191 charges to 294.)
For employers who believed that the discrimination claims are a relic of history, the statistics show that such claims are alive and well. And they are costing more in time and money than ten years ago.