OLR Bill Analysis

SB 446 (File 254, as amended by Senate "A" and "B")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEFINITION OF THE TERM "DOMESTIC WORKER".

SUMMARY:

This bill makes various procedural changes affecting discrimination complaints filed with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). For example, it:

1. shortens certain time frames for CHRO's processing of complaints;

2. allows the respondent (i.e., the alleged wrongdoer) to elect to participate in pre-answer conciliation;

3. prohibits the same person from being assigned to conduct the mandatory mediation conference and investigate the complaint;

4. transfers certain responsibilities from the CHRO executive director to the CHRO legal counsel; and

5. makes minor, technical, and conforming changes.

The bill also brings domestic workers who work for employers with at least three employees under the employment-related anti-discrimination laws administered by CHRO. Among other things, this provides them with (1) protections against employment-related discrimination based on their race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, marital status, national origin, ancestry, and mental or physical disability; (2) a right to a reasonable leave of absence for a disability resulting from a pregnancy and other pregnancy-related protections; and (3) protections against sexual harassment. By law, employees covered under the CHRO statutes can enforce their rights by filing a complaint with the commission.

*Senate Amendment “A” replaces the original bill (File 254) and brings domestic workers who work for certain employers under the CHRO laws.

*Senate Amendment “B” adds the provisions on discrimination complaint procedures.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015, except for the provisions on domestic workers, which are effective January 1, 2016.

DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT PROCESS

The bill makes the following changes to CHRO's discriminatory practice complaint process.

507(a) and (b) — Procedure After Complaint is Filed; Pre-Answer Conciliation

The bill decreases, from 20 to 15 days after a discriminatory practice complaint is filed, the time CHRO has to provide the respondent with a (1) copy of the complaint and (2) notice advising the respondent of his or her procedural rights and obligations.

Under current law, the respondent generally must file an answer within 30 days after receiving the complaint, unless CHRO grants a 15-day extension for good cause. Except for housing discrimination cases, the bill also allows a respondent, instead of filing an answer, to elect to participate in pre-answer conciliation. To do so, the respondent must notify the complainant and CHRO in writing, within 10 days after receiving the complaint. CHRO must conduct a pre-answer conciliation conference within 30 days after receiving the respondent's request to do so. If CHRO determines that the conference was unsuccessful, the respondent then must file an answer within 30 days after the determination, unless CHRO grants a 15-day extension.

As under current law, the bill requires answers to complaints alleging housing discrimination to be filed within 10 days. It also requires answers to amended complaints to be filed within 20 days of the respondent receiving the amendment.

Under the bill, a complaint sent by first class mail is considered to be received not later than two days after it was mailed, unless the respondent proves otherwise.

507(c) — Case Assessment Review

The bill decreases, from 90 to 60 days after the respondent files his or her answer, the time for CHRO's executive director or her designee to conduct a review of the case file. It renames this review as the “case assessment review” rather than merit assessment review.

Under current law, if a complaint is dismissed after this review, the complainant has 15 days to request a release from CHRO jurisdiction, allowing the complainant to bring a lawsuit. If the complainant does not request a release of jurisdiction, CHRO legal counsel must conduct a legal review of the complaint, to determine whether to reinstate it.

The bill instead, requires CHRO to issue a release of jurisdiction for a case dismissed after the case assessment review, rather than only upon request.

As under existing law, these provisions do not apply to housing discrimination complaints.

507(d) — Mandatory Mediation Conference

Under current law, if the complaint is not dismissed after the case review, there is a mandatory mediation conference. The bill:

1. allows, but does not require, mediation if CHRO has held a pre-answer conciliation conference,

2. prohibits the investigator or legal counsel assigned to conduct the mediation from being assigned to investigate the complaint;

3. eliminates the option for the mediation conference to be scheduled to coincide with the investigator's fact-finding conference; and

4. eliminates the option for either party to request additional mediation conferences if the first does not resolve the complaint.

507(e) — Early Legal Intervention

By law, either party or CHRO can request early legal intervention for complaints that are not resolved after the mandatory mediation conference. If so, the bill requires CHRO legal counsel, rather than the executive director or her designee, to determine whether the case should proceed or be released from CHRO jurisdiction. The bill makes several conforming changes. It also specifies that the provisions on early legal intervention do not apply to housing discrimination complaints.

507(f) — Assigning Investigator for Fact-Finding

By law, if the complaint is (1) not resolved after the mediation conference or (2) processed through early legal intervention, the executive director or her designee must assign an investigator to process the complaint through various means of fact-finding. The bill requires this assignment to be made no later than 15 days after either of these occur, rather than 15 days after the conference only.

507(h) — Request for Reconsideration

The bill gives CHRO legal counsel, rather than the executive director or her designee, the authority to grant or reject a complainant's request for reconsideration if (1) there was a finding of no reasonable cause that discrimination occurred or (2) the complaint was dismissed for other specified reasons.

507(k) – Investigations

The bill specifies that the CHRO legal counsel, when investigating complaints filed with CHRO, may issue subpoenas requiring the production of records and other documents or compelling the attendance of witnesses.

507(l) — Request to Vacate a Default

The bill allows respondents to apply to the executive director to vacate a default. If the director decides not to vacate the default, he or she must follow the procedure under existing law that applies when the director issues a default order.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Labor and Public Employees Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

8

Nay

5

(03/12/2015)