PA 15-249—SB 446

Labor and Public Employees Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING DOMESTIC SERVICE AND THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES

SUMMARY: This act brings domestic workers who work for employers with at least three employees under the employment-related anti-discrimination laws administered by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). Among other things, it provides them with:

1. protections against employment-related discrimination based on their race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, or mental or physical disability;

2. certain pregnancy-related protections, including a right to a reasonable leave of absence for a disability resulting from a pregnancy; 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.

The act also makes various procedural changes affecting discrimination complaints filed with 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.

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

DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT PROCESS

The act makes the following changes in CHRO's discriminatory practice complaint process.

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

The act 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 prior law, the respondent generally had to file an answer within 30 days after receiving the complaint, unless CHRO granted a 15-day extension for good cause. Except for housing discrimination cases, the act 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. 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.

The act requires respondents to file answers to amended complaints within 20 days after receiving the amendment. As under prior law, the act requires answers to complaints alleging housing discrimination to be filed within 10 days.

Under the act, 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.

2(c) — Case Assessment Review

The act 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 review the case file. It renames this review as the “case assessment review” rather than merit assessment review.

Under prior law, if a complaint was dismissed after this review, the complainant had 15 days to request a release from CHRO jurisdiction, allowing the complainant to bring a lawsuit. If the complainant did not request this release, the CHRO legal counsel had to conduct a legal review of the complaint to determine whether to reinstate it. The act instead requires CHRO to issue a release of jurisdiction for a complaint dismissed after the case assessment review, rather than only upon request.

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

2(d) — Mandatory Mediation Conference

Under prior law, if the complaint was not dismissed after the case or legal review, there was a mandatory mediation conference. The act:

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; and

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

2(e) — Early Legal Intervention

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

2(f) — Assigning Investigator for Fact-Finding

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

2(h) — Request for Reconsideration

The act gives the 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.

2(l) — Request to Vacate a Default

The act allows respondents to apply to the executive director to vacate a default. If she decides not to vacate the default, she, or her designee, must follow the procedure under existing law that applies after an order of default. Thus, the director or designee must appoint a presiding officer to enter an order, after notice and hearing, eliminating the discriminatory practice and making the complainant whole.

BACKGROUND

Related Act

PA 15-5, June Special Session, 66-87, makes numerous changes to the CHRO statutes, including certain technical changes to conform to this act.

OLR Tracking: LH: JB: VR: cmg