On July 13, 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law Public Act No. 11-237, An Act Concerning the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ("CHRO"). The Act will become effective on October 1, 2011. The Act amends some of the CHRO's procedures and time periods for taking action in an effort to increase the CHRO's efficiency. These changes are summarized below:
Merit Assessment Review
- The Act still requires the executive director (or designee) to conduct a merit assessment review within 90 days of the filing of the respondent's answer to the complaint.
- If the executive director determines that the complaint fails to state claim for relief or is frivolous on its face, the executive director must send an official notice of the dismissal.
- The complainant may request a release of jurisdiction within 15 days of the notice of dismissal, allowing the complainant to bring a civil action.
Automatic Legal Review
- If the complainant does not request a release of jurisdiction, CHRO legal counsel is required to conduct a legal review of any complaint dismissed and must reinstate or deny reinstatement of the complaint within 60 days of the sending of the notice of dismissal.
Mandatory Mediation Conference
- If the complaint is not dismissed after the merit assessment review, or if the complaint is reinstated after legal review, the Act requires the executive director to assign an investigator or CHRO legal counsel to hold a mandatory mediation conference within 60 days of sending notice of action taken.
- The mandatory mediation conference may be scheduled for the same time as the fact-finding conference.
- The mediator may conduct additional mediation conferences to accommodate settlement discussions.
- The CHRO may dismiss the complaint if: (1) a complainant, after notice and without good cause, fails to attend a mandatory mediation conference; or (2) the respondent has eliminated the discriminatory practice complained of, taken steps to prevent a like occurrence in the future and offered full relief to the complainant, even though the complainant has refused such relief.
- If the complaint is not resolved after the mandatory mediation conference, the executive director must assign an investigator to the complaint within 15 days after the mandatory mediation conference.
Early Legal Intervention
- If the complaint is not resolved after the mandatory mediation conference, the complainant, the respondent or the CHRO may request early legal intervention.
- If a request for early legal intervention is made, the executive director is required to determine within 90 days of the request whether the complaint should be heard, processed or released from the CHRO's jurisdiction.
- In making such a determination, the executive director may hold additional proceedings and utilize CHRO staff.
- The executive director can recommend that the investigator make a finding of no reasonable cause. The investigator shall make such a finding unless the investigator believes the executive director made a mistake of fact or consults with the executive director about their differences.
Release of Jurisdiction
- The Act shortens the time period that a complainant must wait to request a release of jurisdiction from the CHRO from 210 days to 180 days from the date of filing the complaint or anytime after a merit assessment review, whichever is earlier.
- The executive director shall conduct an expedited merit assessment review if the CHRO receives a request for a release of jurisdiction from the complainant prior to 180 days from the date a complaint is filed.
- Upon receipt of a release of jurisdiction, a complainant may file a civil action in court.
E-mail Service Allowed
- The Act now allows for e-mail service of correspondence and notices.
A copy of Public Act No. 11-237 can be found here: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00237-R00HB-06595-PA.htm.