JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Senator Catherine A. Osten
REASONS FOR BILL:
To revise certain administrative proceedings that relates to the filing of discriminatory practice claims with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and expedites the processing of affirmative action plans filed by contractors with the commission.
Provides that the Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities executive director assigns legal counsel to the commission to represent the interest of the State of Connecticut with regard to proceedings where civil or human rights are at issue. Additionally, if the executive director fails to approve or conditionally approve or disapprove the affirmative action plan within ninety days of submission, such plan is deemed approved. Further, the executive director is charged with revoking the certificate of a contractor not in compliance. Moreover, the mediation provision is deleted.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), Executive Director Tanya A. Hughes & CHRO Deputy Director Cheryl Sharp: Supports Sections 1 through 3 because these provisions will enhance the CHRO's ability to enforce state laws against discrimination and will improve the public hearing process. In addition, CHRO supports Section 4, however, suggests modifications to lines 145-149: substitute “execute director or the executive director's designee” to “commission.” CHRO opposes Section 5 because the proposed changes in this provision are either unworkable or have a fiscal note. Section 5 line 185 adds delay to the process; Section 5 lines 227-366, voluntary mediation process provision would incentivize respondents to decline to participate in mediation. Additionally, Section 5 lines 202-209 replacing current case assessment review standard is concerning because these standards may unintentionally create an incentive for respondents to withhold documents such as payroll and attendance records, etc. Moreover, the proposal in Section 5 lines 369-372 will change the whole dynamic of how cases are heard, and may unintentionally encourage both parties to engage in conduct that might delay or obstruct the fact-finding.
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), Chief Human Rights Referee, Michele Mount: Submitted written testimony regarding Section 2 of the bill. With regard to Section 2 subparagraph (i) and (j), the proposed new deadline in this bill is of concern, and will result in attorneys not being granted extensions of time or requested continuances, shorter production deadlines, and the deadlines for submission of post-hearing briefs will be radically reduced. Moreover, if the proposed new deadline is not met, the commission or the parties may bring an action against the presiding hearing officer in Superior Court, and would require the Attorney General to defend the Office of Public Hearing. Furthermore, it would require the Superior Court Judge to impose a deadline without any knowledge of the OPH caseload. With regard to Section 2(j), to ensure the constitutionally-required separation of powers between CHRO and its adjudicative law tribunal, substitute language is proposed to clarify that the Chief Human Rights Referee assigns cases to the judge trial referees.
Connecticut Judicial Branch: Feels strongly that Section 2 of the bill is an Executive Branch Function that judge trial referees should not be handling. Furthermore, case flow may be impacted since this would create the need for judges to recuse themselves from any CHRO case that is commenced or appealed to the Superior Court.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Senator Cathy Osten, 19th District: Supports the common sense changes proposed in this bill alleviating the delay in CHRO approval of contracts for certain contractors awarded government contracts. Section 4 of this bill will result in a common sense timeline in awarding government contracts.
Associated Builders & Contractors President, Chris Syrek: Supports this bill. Section 4 of the bill will improve the process for all involved parties, and the construction industry will be able to have ample time to review approved plans with CHRO to ensure compliance. Furthermore, this would ensure that CHRO will be able to stay ahead of their workload and not continue current excessive backlogs.
Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP, Domenico Zalno Jr.: Supports this bill changing the standards for conducting the Case Assessment review because it is an expeditious way to have frivolous cases dismissed. Proposed modifications to lines 204 to 206: In line 204, strike “determine whether” and insert “conclude” in lieu thereof. In line 205 and 206, strike “sets forth” and insert “establishes” in lieu thereof.
Civitillo Masonry Inc. President, William J. Civitillo: Supports this bill requiring a 90-day decision on a contractor's Affirmative Action Plan by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. This will provide for timely payment in general and additional monies to have full use of funds for operational needs.
Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) Assistant Counsel, Eric Gjede: Supports sections 4 to 7, and oppose section 1 to 3. The initial voluntary mediation conference provided in this bill will provide relief with regard to the unnecessary expense of time and money when the respondent has no intention of settling a meritless claim. Moreover, when the respondent is present, they should have the right to be present to hear the accusations made against them to allow them to refute the complainant's testimony with their counsel. Proposed modifications to lines 204 to 206: In line 204, strike “determine whether” and insert “conclude” in lieu thereof; In line 205 and 206, strike “sets forth” and insert “establishes” in lieu thereof.
Connecticut Construction Industries Association, Inc., (CCIA): Supports the provision in this bill requiring action on the part of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) to review and formally approve or disapprove the content of a contractor's affirmative action plan. Delay in retainage release escalates the financial pressure for general contractors and subcontractors.
Downes Construction Company, Gary Timura: Supports this bill since the delay in approving plans creates a burden that this bill addresses. This bill will eliminate the deficiency in the approval process within CHRO.
F+F Mechanical Enterprises Vice President, Frank Ferrucci: Supports the affirmative action provision requirements for CHRO. Establishing a firm retainage release policy will provide much needed financial relief, and the ability to quantify the amount of resources and effort it will take to internally administer a plan.
H. Carr & Sons, Inc., Michael J. Fox, Business Development/Compliance Officer: Supports this bill requiring CHRO to make a decision on a contractor's affirmative action plan within 90 days, alleviating the financial and timely burden of the current process.
KBE Building Corporation, Susanne Donohue, VP, HR & AA/EEO Officer: Supports this bill because a timely response from CHRO is critical to the ability to move projects forward to meet the intent of the law in the most costly effective and administratively effective way.
M. Frank Higgins & Co., Inc., President, Kathleen Cloud: Supports this bill providing an affirmative action plan by CHRO effecting 2% of retainage dollars.
Professional Drywall Construction, Inc. President, John Kendzierski: Supports this bill because it will have a significant, positive impact on the company's cash flow.
Shepard Steel Co., Inc. Vice President, Keith F. Wolf: Supports the provision requiring CHRO to make a decision on a contractor's Affirmative Action Plan within 90 days. This will have a positive impact on the contractors in the State of Connecticut.
Standard Builders President, Robert J. Sullivan, PE: Supports this bill's affirmative action plan provision. The lengthy period of retainage can create significant cash flow problems for small businesses, and this bill addresses these concerns.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) Assistant Counsel, Eric Gjede: Opposes sections 1 to 3 of this bill.
Reported by: Pauleen Consebido, Legal Intern