In preparation for a webinar I gave this week with my colleague Chris Engler (which, by the way, you can access here) I took a deeper dive into the statistics from the annual report released by the CHRO, in a followup to my initial report here.
When you look at the numbers in a snapshot, it’s sometimes hard to see where things are going. But thankfully, the CHRO has nearly two decades’ worth of data to parse through.
So, I thought it might be useful to go back a decade to the 2008-09 annual report and compare it with 2018-2019 to see if we can gain a larger perspective on both the work of the CHRO and where we are in the state of employment law.
Overall, I was left with questions that don’t have easy answers.
So, let’s go through a few of the data points; the reports are all pretty much written the same way, with the same categories used:
- Complaints filed by Region: Overall, all complaints (housing, employment etc) were up in FY 2019 to 2625 from 2001 ten years ago. But where the complaints are being filed are not spread out evenly. The Eastern region (Norwich office) had 461 vs. 438 claims in FY 2009. But look at the West Central region (Waterbury); the number of complaints filed there has skyrockted from 451 to 816 complaints (FY 2019). The obvious question: Why?
- Complaints filed by Charge: As the economy was crashing in 2008, there were 1716 employment discrimination complains filed in FY 2009, but by FY 2019, claims are now at 2016. (We’ll put aside a big increase in “public accommodations” discrimination too.) But it still remains odd to me that in a relatively good economy, employment claims are noticeably higher; the unemployment rate in Connecticut by mid 2019 was nearly 8 percent. Now, it’s around 3.6 percent. Moreover, companies have increased their trainings. So the obvious question: Why are claims still so relatively high?
- Case Closures: Anyone who has dealt with the agency of late has seen a dramatic improvement in the closure rates of the agency. And the statistics bear this out. In FY 2009, there were 2118 case closures; in FY 2019, that number is 2640. But the number is even more striking when you look at FY 2011. In that year, only 1299 cases were closed, resulting in a big backload.
- CAR is up, but still down from MAR peak: The CHRO’s relatively new Case Assessment Review has led to 20 percent of cases getting dismissed, essentially, on a paper review. That number is up significantly from just a few years ago, but, let’s not forget — 10 years ago, Merit Assessment Review was doing even better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Back then, over 630 complaints were dismissed on MAR; this past year CAR was up to 434 claims dismissed. So, is it progress or not? Again, perspective is everything. But it seems like we have come full circle.
- Releases of Jurisdiction Up, A lot: Look at releases of jurisdiction — that is, a Complainant asking the CHRO for the ability to file in court. In FY 2009, there were 310 releases. In FY 2019, there were 612! Is this the result of — as I suspect in part, certain lawfirms filing CHRO complaints only to pull them to go to state court? Or just merely a reflection of more complaints? That’s a question for another day.
- Reasonable Cause Findings are Flat? So, here is a strange statistic — in FY 2009, there were 91 reasonable cause findings. 10 years later? 95. Since we know there are more claims being filed, it means that as a percentage of overall claims, reasonable cause findings are down over the last 10 years. So back to my original question: Why?
As I said last week, the report provides a lot of information and raises a lot of questions too. How do we get answers? That remains to be seen.
But for employers – one answer is clear: Employment discrimination claims show no real signs of any big dropoffs anytime soon. Employment law lawyers will continue to be in demand.