Connecticut Commission on Human Rights
CYNTHIA WATTS ELDER, Executive Director
Established - 1943
Statutory authority - CGS Chapter 814c
Central office - 21 Grand Street,
Hartford, CT 06106
Number of positions - 101
Recurring operating expenses - $6,161,172
Organizational structure – Nine-Member Commission Establishes Policy; Executive Director Manages Administrative Office and Four Regional Offices; Independent Office of Public Hearings.
The mission of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is to eliminate discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education.
The Commission’s statutory responsibilities are to:
· Eliminate illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and
credit transactions through civil and human rights law enforcement,
· Monitor compliance with state contract compliance laws and small contractor set-aside
provisions by state agencies, contractors, and subcontractors,
· Review, approve, and monitor state agency affirmative action plans for compliance with laws
requiring affirmative action and equal opportunity in state government, and
· Establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons in Connecticut through strategies such as
education and outreach activities.
· Department of Correction: The Commission completed an extensive fact-finding investigation of sexual harassment issues within the Department of Correction (DOC). The investigation focused, not only on widespread claims of sexual harassment, but also on the manner in which DOC responds to the claims. In February 2003, the Commission issued its final report on the matter, which included several recommendations designed to curb the incidents of sexual harassment, and to improve the handling of such claims by the DOC.
· Affirmative Action in State Agencies: In FY 2003, the Commission prepared and issued Affirmative Action in State Agencies – The Millennium Report. In addition to a detailed analysis of the affirmative action efforts of all state agencies for calendar years 2000 and 2001, this report also contained a broad overview of the changes that occurred in the state’s workforce from 1980 to 2000. This report highlights the changes to the state’s workforce in the last two decades, the result being a workforce that is more diverse and more representative of the state’s population. As most of the affirmative action obligations that state agencies must meet were enacted in the 1970s, this was the first report to examine the impact of these requirements over a lengthy period of time.
· Legislation and Regulations: The General Assembly enacted Public Act 03-143, effective October 1, 2003, which allows CHRO to adopt regulations to establish procedures and standards for alternative dispute resolution in connection with discriminatory employment practice complaints. The act also requires, instead of permits, the attorney, for those complainants who are represented, to present all, or part of, the case in support of the complaint at a CHRO hearing, if the Attorney General or commission counsel determines that the interests of the state will not be adversely affected.
The legislature also enacted Public Act 03-151, effective October 2, 2003 which requires CHRO and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) to provide all state agency affirmative action officers with at least ten hours of annual training in (1) state and federal discrimination laws and (2) internal discrimination investigation techniques. The act also prohibits agency affirmative action officers from representing their agencies before CHRO or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the complainant also filed an internal affirmative action complaint. Finally, it requires the Attorney General, or his designee, who represent state agencies in CHRO or EEOC inquiries, to receive the same ten hours of legal and investigative training as required for affirmative action officers.
The Regulation Review Committee approved an extensive revision of the agency’s Complaint Processing and Contested Case Proceedings regulations in October 2002. The new regulations became effective on November 4, 2002. The agency is in the process of revising its Affirmative Action By State Government regulations.
· Case Processing:
Field Operations - During the fiscal year, the Commission received 2,517 complaint affidavits and closed 2,215 cases. Known damages totaling $2,052,931.13 were received through conciliation for complainants who alleged they were victims of illegal discrimination.
Litigation – The Office of Commission Counsel (OCC) began the fiscal year with 33 cases pending in the public hearing process, 70 new cases were certified to public hearing during the fiscal year, including six default cases. In addition, one case was remanded from the court for additional hearings. During the year, 68 cases were dismissed from the public hearing process, by decision, settlement, defaults that were cured, and in one case, decertification. This left 36 cases pending at public hearing at fiscal year end. A total of $822,703 (excluding confidential settlements) was secured for complainants. An additional 16 housing cases were filed in court, pursuant to CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46a-83(d). One of these cases settled. There were 17 such cases pending at the end of the fiscal year. The OCC began the fiscal year with 26 other cases in court, primarily appeals from dismissals during the investigation or following public hearing. During the year, seven new court cases were filed, and 18 were resolved, leaving 15 pending at the end of the fiscal year. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which handled housing cases that were certified to public hearing or which went directly to court prior to August of 2001, had 12 cases pending at the end of the fiscal year. A total of $54,908 was obtained for Complainants in all court cases. The Managing Director reviewed 13 reopening requests during the fiscal year, and the Commission or the OAG made a total of 277 recommendations on requests for reconsideration. Finally, during the fiscal year, the OCC filed amicus briefs in two court cases in which the state had an interest, and intervened in one other.
· Training and Communication: The Commission continued its training program for investigative staff. The OCC and Chief of Field Operations made quarterly visits to all regional offices, providing investigative staff training on complaint processing and legal developments. Additionally, trainers from the Department of Public Safety provided training on interviewing and reporting techniques, interpersonal skills, and personal safety to staff. Staff also participated in in-service training classes and training seminars. The Executive Director facilitated two agency-wide meetings for staff to cover recent civil and human rights developments.
· Diversity and Education Programs: During the fiscal year, the affirmative action plans of 71 state agencies were submitted to the Commission. Four (4) state agencies are on biennial filing status. There were 63 plans approved (3 by default), one plan was disapproved, and there were seven conditional approvals. The Commission staff conducted 54 technical assistance meetings with state agency Affirmative Action personnel and completed 20 technical assistance and compliance report reviews.
The Commission serves as secretariat for the Connecticut Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission (MLK). The MLK Commission presented the 17th Annual Bell Ringing Ceremony at the State Capitol, commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The MLK Commission also presented its seventh annual statewide youth conference, “Connecticut’s Youth…Looking for Answers,” offering 300 high school students the opportunity to attend workshops addressing important issues such as teenage pregnancy, race relations, and cultural diversity.
The staff planned, coordinated, and promoted special agency events throughout the year, including the agency’s third participation in “MLK Environmental Justice Day” at Yale-Peabody Museum in New Haven.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute
The Commission is committed to affirmative action and equal employment and opportunity. The Commission’s affirmative action plan for its most recent reporting period was approved; good faith efforts were made to achieve hiring and promotion goals. Contact was maintained with recruitment sources and organizations. The Employee Advisory Committee met regularly to assist on matters, including affirmative action. Diversity training was provided to new staff through the Department of Administrative Services. The Commission’s program complies with state non-discrimination laws pertaining to the protected class of sexual orientation.
Freedom of Information
Additional Information: Individuals seeking additional information about the Commission, the laws it enforces, and its services and programs are encouraged to contact the Commission’s website http://www.state.ct.us/chro/ or to call us at our toll free number (800) 477-5737.