Commission on Human Rights

and Opportunities*

 

 

At a Glance

 

RAYMOND P. PECH, Interim Executive Director

Established - 1943

Statutory authority - CGS Chapter 814c

Central office - 21 Grand Street,

         Hartford, CT 06106

Number of positions - 95 authorized    

Recurring operating expenses - $6,308,941.00

Organizational structure - Nine Member Commission Establishes Policy, Executive Director Manages Administrative Office and Four Regional Offices.  Independent Office of Public Hearings.

Website: http://www.state.ct.us/chro/

Toll Free Telephone No. (800) 477-5737

*Historical and Statistical Data as of June 30, 2004

 

Mission

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.

 

Statutory Responsibility

     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.

 

 

Public Service

    The Commission is a policy-making body consisting of nine members.  Five of the members are appointed by the Governor and four are appointed by the leadership of the General Assembly.  All new appointments require the advice and consent of the House and Senate.  The Commission conducts regular monthly meetings.  The Commission conducts special meetings and fact-finding hearings as it deems necessary.  

    There were nine commissioners serving at the end of the fiscal year.  They are Chairperson Amalia Vazquez Bzdyra, Secretary Benjamin F. Rhodes, Jr., Commissioners Esther Armmand, Debra M. Borrero, James Griffin, Edward Mambruno, George A. Marshall, Andrew M. Norton, and Edith Pestana. 

    An Executive Director is appointed by the Commission to oversee the operations of the agency.  The agency has four regional offices located in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport, and Norwich, which receive and investigate cases from individuals who believe that they have suffered illegal discrimination.  The agency’s administrative office, also located in Hartford, houses the Office of the Executive Director, the Legal Division, the Chief of Field Operations, the Administrative Services Division, the Office of Affirmative Action and Contract Compliance, the Special Enforcement Unit and the independent Office of Public Hearings.

 

Improvements/Achievements 2003-04

·         Affirmative Action and Diversity Training: In August 2003, the Commission prepared and issued a Report on Affirmative Action and Diversity Training in CT State Agencies.  This combined report was in response to PA 01-53: AN ACT CONCERNING STATE AGENCY AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PLANS AND DIVERSITY TRAINING (effective October 1, 2001) which modified PA 99-180, AN ACT CONCERNING DIVERSITY TRAINING FOR STATE EMPLOYEES.  This two-part report provides a detail description/analysis of affirmative action efforts of all state agencies and state employee workplace diversity training for calendar years 2001 and 2002. The Affirmative Action section of the 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.  The Diversity Training section of the report comprises an analysis of efforts made by state agencies to fulfill requirements of diversity training, which is intended to promote racial and cultural harmony in the workplace.

·         Contract Compliance Report: The Commission also published a report, in May, regarding contract compliance and utilization of small and minority businesses.  The report analyzed state spending over the past three years, and the benefit of that spending to small and minority-owned businesses.

·         Case Processing:

Field Operations - During the fiscal year, the Commission received 2,455 complaint affidavits and closed 2,368 cases.  Known settlements totaling $2,317,415.87 were received through conciliation for complainants who alleged they were victims of illegal discrimination.  A number of private settlements entered directly between complainants and respondents were also attained.

Litigation - During the fiscal year, the Commission’s Legal Division (LD) had 50 cases (12 housing and 38 employment) dismissed from the public hearing process, by decision or settlement.  A total in excess of $750,000 (excluding confidential settlements) was secured for complaints.  An additional seven cases were processed as defaults, which resulted in an additional total award of $70,000.   Eight housing election cases were resolved or withdrawn from court pursuant to CONN. GEN. STAT. § 46a-83(d) resulting in over $80,000 (excluding confidential settlements) leaving 13 pending housing election cases.   An additional 61 cases were resolved through the LD using early mediation, resulting in over $202,000, plus an unknown amount through confidential settlement agreements.

     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 five cases (state superior court) and one case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court at the end of the fiscal year.  A total of $51,000 was obtained for Complainants in six court cases that were either settled or in which a judgment was enforced.  The Managing Director received 13 reopening requests during the fiscal year, and the Commission and/or the OAG made a total of 85 recommendations on requests for reconsideration. 

·         Training and Communication: Several staff participated in various in-service training classes and training seminars.  In addition, several staff members attended a national housing policy summit in Washington, D.C.   

·         Diversity and Education Programs:  During the fiscal year, the affirmative action plans of 71 state agencies were submitted to the Commission.  Three (3) state agencies are on biennial filing status.  Two (2) agencies have merged into other state agencies. There were 64 plans approved (two by default), two (2) plans were disapproved, and there were three (3) conditional approvals.  The Commission staff conducted 30 technical assistance meetings with state agency Affirmative Action personnel and completed ten 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 18th Annual Bell Ringing Ceremony at the State Capitol, commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The staff planned, coordinated, and promoted special agency events throughout the year, including the agency’s fourth participation in “MLK Environmental Justice Day” at Yale-Peabody Museum in New Haven.

 

Information Reported as Required by State Statute

Affirmative Action

The Commission is committed to the principles of affirmative action and equal employment 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.  Because of the lay-offs of 2003, hiring was limited, and several of the positions that were filled were non-discretionary because of SEBAC and recall lists. Contact was maintained with recruitment sources and organizations.  Set-aside program goals were achieved.  The Commission’s program complies with state non-discrimination laws pertaining to the protected class of sexual orientation.

 

Freedom of Information

The Commission has always taken seriously its responsibility to comply with the provisions of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.  The Legal Division is responsible for responding to all freedom of information (FOI) requests except those received directly in a regional office requesting a file being processed by that office.  The Legal Division also responds to subpoenas for documents and testimony related to agency procedures and documents.  Most requests are handled by support staff; complex requests are referred to the Managing Director.  A total of 222 FOI requests were answered by the support staff and an additional 14 requests were addressed by the Managing Director.  The Managing Director ensures that all regular and special Commission meetings are properly noticed and filed with the Office of the Secretary of State in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

     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.