A new lawsuit filed last Thursday in Connecticut state court by an employer alleges that the employer’s due process rights are being violated by “inherently conflicted and irreparably unfair proceedings” at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) — the state agency responsible for investigating and enforcing the state’s anti-discrimination laws. 

In the lawsuit,

In implementing the budget agreement today, the Connecticut General Assembly approved of significant changes for the CHRO – changes that will ultimately lead to the creation of a new Office of Administrative Hearings. The bill now goes to the Governor; her signature is expected.

Here are the highlights, courtesy of the Office of Legislative Research:

Training for CHRO Members

The bill requires each member of Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) to receive at least 10 hours of introductory training within two months of his or her appointment and before voting on any CHRO matter. A member who does not comply with this requirement within six months of his or her appointment is considered to have resigned from the commission. Each year thereafter, the member must receive five hours of follow-up training.

Reduction in Human Rights Referees

The bill reduces the number of human rights referees over the next approximately two years. On the date the bill passes, the number is reduced from seven to five. They serve until (1) the term they were appointed to fill expires or July 1, 2011, whichever is earlier, and (2) a successor is appointed and qualified. The governor fills any vacancies with the advice and consent of the General Assembly to serve until July 1, 2011.

Beginning July 1, 2011, the number of referees is reduced from five to three. Just as under current law, the governor appoints them with the advice and consent of the General Assembly to serve a three-year term.

The governor may remove any of the referees for cause.

Create Task Force for Department of Administrative Hearings

The bill establishes a 24-member task force to develop recommendations for establishing within the CHRO a Division of Administrative Hearings that would conduct impartial hearings on contested cases brought by or before the departments of Children and Families, Transportation, and Motor Vehicles; CHRO; and the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.  Among the people: an attorney selected by the Connecticut Bar Association


Continue Reading Legislature Approves Training for CHRO Members; Reduces Number of Human Rights Referees & Establishes Hearing Task Force

Within a 702 page state budget, you should always expect surprises. 

This year’s budget — passed by the Connecticut General Assembly earlier this week on essentially a party-line vote — has a few surprises including a provision that establishes a new independent Office Of Administrative Hearings. 

The OAH will be housed in the Commission

AS UPDATED (9/9)

Last week, I posted about the statistics released by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.  (You can view the CHRO’s Annual Report here.)  Today, I continue to take a look behind the numbers and the implications for employers in Connecticut.

Among the most striking of the statistics is this fact: Human Rights Referees issued only six referee decisions for the entire fiscal year (2007-2008) that closed cases after public hearings. 48 other cases were closed through a stipulated agreement. 

Why is this number significant? Because there are seven human rights referees that are employed full-time by the State of Connecticut to handle these cases. (UPDATE: Although the statute does provide for seven, a reader noted that only five or six have actually been appointed — which may be a post for another day).   And yes, for those doing the math, that works out to about  one referee decision for each human rights referee for the entire year

Now you may be asking if 6 referee decisions is actually a lot when compared with past years. The answer is unequivocally no.  In 2000-2001, there were 87 public hearing referee decisions.  In 2002-2003, there were still 67 referee decisions.  Even for the year ending 2004-2005, 30 referee decisions were issued.  That’s a drop of over 90 percent since 2001.

Despite the decreasing numbers, effective July 1, 2004, the legislature approved of seven human rights referees to serve for three year terms (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 46a-57.)  Unlike their predecessors (who served part-time), these human rights referees serve on a full-time basis.  (46a-57(b)). 

It’s obvious from the most recent numbers that a review of the staffing levels of the human rights referees is in order by the General Assembly — which is where the blame clearly lies for its passage of the statute requiring certain staffing levels.   Perhaps the General Assembly, which is looking for ways to trim the budget, can review the CHRO’s staffing levels and determine whether having five to seven full-time human rights referees who issue a total of six decisions in a year on public hearings is the best use of taxpayer funds.  (For a fairly scathing review of the CHRO, the Law Tribune has a column this week by Karen Lee Torre.)


Continue Reading Numbers Galore, Part II: Seven Full-time CHRO Human Rights Referees for Six Referee Decisions

Only a handful of CHRO Human Rights Referee Decisions are issued each year — a number that has seemed to slow to a trickle recently.   But this month, the CHRO issued a lengthy decision in an age discrimination case.  In that case, CHRO Referee concluded that the Town of Bloomfield, Connecticut discriminated against a police officer because of his age when

Since the Ledbetter decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court last month, issues of the timeliness of employment discrimination claims have come to the forefront. An interesting decision by a CHRO Human Rights Referee recently suggests that complaints that do not specify the timeliness of certain claims may still survive a motion to dismiss. CHRO logo

CHRO Human