Labor Unions, CBIA Speaking with One Voice to Oppose Trial-Bar CHRO Measure

03.04.2010
Issues & Policies

Costly discrimination claims could bypass the state’s longstanding administrative review process and move sooner to court if a bill now in the Labor Committee becomes law.

But CBIA and organized labor are working together to oppose HB-5206, which would clog the state’s court system with cases that could—and should —be resolved within the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).

The system, within CHRO, was set up to reduce claimants’ and respondents’ costs and ensure a greater level of expertise in case resolution. However, the trial bar wants to bypass that important administrative review.

CHRO has the expertise and authority to evaluate the merits of discrimination and other equal opportunity claims before cases reach court. In this capacity, the agency is often successful in leading some cases to be settled at the administrative hearing level—which saves taxpayer dollars, reduces litigation costs and prevents the state’s court docket from getting overloaded.

What’s more, HB-5206 is unnecessary because Connecticut law already provides an opportunity for individuals to bring discrimination claims directly into court if all parties agree. A complaint may be removed to court immediately if both parties submit a joint request to the CHRO to release its jurisdiction.

And state law also allows either party the right to remove the case to court if the matter has not been resolved within seven months. The waiting period allows the parties to continue discussions and settlement negotiations without the added pressure of preparing for litigation before all substantive issues have been evaluated.

HB-5206 ignores those allowances and just opens the way for discrimination claims to reach the court prematurely, before an individual’s administrative remedies are exhausted and all substantive issues evaluated. The result is likely to be higher litigation costs for employees and employers alike by forcing them to litigate even relatively minor claims in court.

While the change is certain to cost taxpayers and businesses, trial attorneys are certain to benefit from more litigation fees, as the CHRO does not award the extent of monetary damages available to attorneys in court.

HB-5206 could be a first step in eroding the authority of state agencies as claims-resolution facilitators that ensure only necessary court litigation occurs. If necessary, CHRO should be fixed and made more functional, not disregarded. CBIA encourages lawmakers to reject HB-5206 as unnecessary and harmful.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Kia Murrell at 86.244.1931 or kia.murrell@cbia.com.

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