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.


Continue Reading Legislative Preview: Will the CHRO Bill Get Passed This Year?

Whenever someone tells you that a proposed bill “clarifies” something or “simplifies” existing law, you should view such talk with a dose of healthy skepticism.

Indeed, viewing the written testimony of CHRO Executive Director Robert Brothers in support of Senate Bill 1164, you could be left with the impression that the changes being proposed to the state’s anti-discrimination laws were nothing more than technical in nature. 

But a more detailed review of the proposed bill reveals significant changes to how the state processes anti-discrimination complaints and what the scope is of such laws.   It would seemingly add emotional distress damages, for example, to the relief available at a public hearing for the first time. 

To be fair, some of the changes really are technical in nature, such as to make the statute more gender neutral. The problem is that such innocuous changes are lumped together with the significant ones.

The Office of Legislative Research’s summary of the bill is far more complete than the CHRO testimony and highlights some of the substantive changes, but even that office’s summary misses some troubling changes. 

Here are three (among many) notable items from the bill worth a review, illustrating why this rushed bill is a bad idea at this time. 

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”.  


Continue Reading Revisions to CHRO-Related Statutes Under Consideration Include Damages for Emotional Distress

In May 2013, a fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is expected to be published.  It is widely anticipated in the mental health field.

What is the DSM-5 all about? DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental

A few weeks ago, I pondered the impact that the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Curry v. Allan S. Goodman would havecourtesy morgue file: fireman (public domain) on cases involving learning and mental disabilities. Turns out, I didn’t need to wait long at all. A CHRO Hearing Officer has already used that decision to chime in and indicate that  must