The short session of the Connecticut General Assembly is set to begin on February 5, 2014.
But the jockeying for items to get on the agenda is well under way. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is circulating a proposed bill that would followup on a failed bill from last year’s term.
I previously discussed this proposal in a post last May.
At the time, the proposed bill was thought to be close to passage, but time ran out in the session before it could be picked up. Earlier versions the bill proved quite troublesome; this latest version still has issues that haven’t been addressed and it’s important for employers to speak up now before the changes are put into place.
So what are some of the changes this bill would bring?
Changes to “Mental Disability”
The bill expands the definition of a “mental disability” to not only “mental disorders, as defined in the most recent edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’”, but also to including having “a record of or regarding a person as having one or more such disorders”.
Put aside, for the moment whether including everything in the new DSM5 is worthwhile. The more troubling issue is that the proposed law would continue to cover “regarded as” claims for mental disabilities. The references to a “past history” of mental disability in existing law being removed by this bill are less significant because a “record” of disability would now be covered.
Why is that problematic? Becaues that the definition is inconsistent with how a “physical” disability is treated; where is the reference to being “regarded” as having a physical disability?
Rather than continue to treat mental and physical disabilities as distinct from each other, the legislature should take its cues from the ADA and match its definitions accordingly. Otherwise, we’ll continue to have three different standards to analyze disability claims — one for ADA claims, and two for state disability-related claims.