OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 197

AN ACT CONCERNING VETERANS, DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES AND ORDERS OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION CASES.

SUMMARY:

This bill prohibits discrimination on the basis of a veteran's status in employment, public accommodations, the sale or rental of housing, the granting of credit, and other laws over which the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) has jurisdiction. It authorizes people to file discrimination complaints with CHRO, which enforces antidiscrimination laws in these areas.

The bill also expands the authority of a presiding officer at a CHRO hearing with regard to the orders he makes on finding evidence of a discriminatory practice.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT, PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS, HOUSING, AND CREDIT

1 — General Antidiscriminatory Provision

Under existing law, it is a discriminatory practice to deprive someone of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by Connecticut or federal laws or constitutions, or cause such a deprivation, because of religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, blindness, or mental or physical disability. The bill adds veteran's status to this list, thus authorizing CHRO to investigate claims of discrimination against veterans on the basis of their status as veterans.

3 — Employment

The bill prohibits an employer or employer's agent, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, from refusing to hire or employ someone; barring or discharging someone from employment; or discriminating against someone in pay or in employment terms, conditions, or privileges because the person is a veteran. This prohibition applies to any employer, public or private, that employs three or more people. It applies to all employees except those employed (1) by their parents, spouse, or children, or (2) in domestic service.

The act also prohibits the following kinds of employment discrimination based on veteran status:

1. employment agencies failing or refusing to classify properly or refer for employment or otherwise discriminating against someone except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need;

2. labor organizations excluding someone from full membership rights, expelling a member, or discriminating in any way against a member, employer, or employee, unless the action is due to a bona fide occupational qualification or need;

3. employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or anyone else taking adverse action against someone because he or she opposed a discriminatory employment practice, brought a complaint, or testified or assisted someone else in a complaint proceeding;

4. any person aiding, abetting, inciting, compelling, or coercing someone to commit a discriminatory employment practice or attempting to do so; and

5. employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or anyone else advertising employment opportunities in a way that restricts employment and thus discriminates, except for a bona fide occupational qualification or need.

4 — Public Accommodations

The bill prohibits anyone from denying someone, on the basis of his or her status as a veteran, full and equal accommodations in any public establishment (i.e., one that caters or offers its services, facilities, or goods to the general public), including any commercial property or building lot on which a commercial building will be built or offered for sale or rent, subject to lawful conditions and limitations that apply alike to everyone. It further prohibits discriminating, segregating, or separating people on the basis of their veteran status. Violations are punishable as a class D misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $250, up to 30 days' imprisonment, or both.

5 — Housing

The bill prohibits the following kinds of housing discrimination based on one's status as a veteran:

1. refusing to sell or rent after a person makes a bona fide offer, or refusing to negotiate for the sale or rental of a dwelling, or otherwise denying or making a dwelling unavailable;

2. discriminating in the terms, conditions, or privileges of a dwelling's sale or rental, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with the sale or rental;

3. making, printing, publishing, or causing this to be done, any notice, statement, or advertisement concerning the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference, limitation, or discrimination, or an intention to make such a preference, limitation, or discrimination;

4. falsely representing to someone that a dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental, a practice commonly known as “steering. ”

5. for profit, inducing or attempting to induce someone to sell or rent a dwelling by representing that veterans are moving, or may move, into the neighborhood;

6. any person or entity engaging in residential real estate transactions discriminating in making a transaction available or its terms or conditions;

7. denying someone access to, or membership or participation in, any multiple-listing service, real estate brokers' organization, or other service, organization, or facility relating to the business of selling or renting dwellings, or discriminating in the terms or conditions of such access, membership, or participation; and

8. coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with someone in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of the person having exercised, enjoyed, or aided or encouraged someone else in the exercise or enjoyment of, these rights.

Violations are punishable as class D misdemeanors.

The law's prohibitions on housing discrimination do not apply to either of the following, if the owner maintains his or her residence there: (1) renting a room or rooms in a single-family home or (2) a unit in a two-family home.

The bill allows property appraisers furnishing appraisals to consider factors other than veterans' status. Existing law allows them to consider factors other than race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender, identity or expression, marital status, age, lawful source of income, familial status, learning disability, or physical or mental disability.

6 — Credit

The bill prohibits a creditor from discriminating against any adult in a credit transaction on the basis of the person's veteran status.

Other Areas Subject to CHRO's Jurisdiction

The bill gives CHRO authority to investigate claims of discrimination based on a person's veteran status under other laws over which CHRO has jurisdiction. The bill:

1. subjects any professional or trade association, board, or other similar organization whose profession, trade, or occupation requires a state license, to a fine of $100 to $500 for denying someone membership because of his or her veteran status ( 2);

2. requires state officials and supervisory personnel to recruit, appoint, assign, train, evaluate, and promote state personnel on the basis of merit and qualifications, without regard to veteran status ( 7);

3. requires state agency services to be performed without discrimination based on veteran status ( 8);

4. requires any state agency that provides employment referrals or placement services to public or private employers to reject any job request that indicates an intention to exclude anyone based on his or her veteran status ( 9);

5. prohibits state departments, boards, or agencies from granting, denying, or revoking a person's license or charter on the grounds of veteran status ( 10);

6. requires all educational, counseling, and vocational guidance programs and all apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs of state agencies, or in which state agencies participate, to be open to all qualified persons, without regard to veteran status ( 11); and

7. prohibits a veteran's status from being considered as a limiting factor in state-administered programs involving the distribution of funds to qualify applicants for benefits authorized by law, and prohibits the state from giving financial assistance to public agencies, private institutions, or other organizations which discriminate on this basis ( 12).

CHRO HEARINGS

In addition to any other action taken by a CHRO hearing officer, after a finding of a discriminatory employment practice, the bill requires, rather that allows, the officer to order that a complainant be hired or reinstated, with or without back pay, or that his or her membership in any respondent labor organization be restored. The bill adds promotion to the list of possible orders. It also requires the officer to allow reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The amount of such fees cannot be contingent upon the amount of damages requested by or awarded to the complainant.

The bill also requires the presiding officer at a hearing conducted upon a discriminatory practice complaint, and upon a finding of such practice, to redress any injury the complainant suffered from the discriminatory practice.

BACKGROUND

Related Bill

SB 21, reported favorably by the Veterans Committee, broadens the scope of the law barring discrimination in the state's armed forces to more closely align with CHRO's antidiscrimination laws and federal policies relating to the armed forces.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Veterans' Affairs Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

13

Nay

0

(03/03/2016)