How is a discrimination complaint processed?
A phone call, letter or visit to any Commission on Human Rights Regional Office starts the process. An interview with an Intake Officer will be scheduled to help you file your sworn complaint. Complaints must be filed within 180 days from the date of the alleged act of discrimination or from the time that you reasonably became aware of the discrimination.
The complaint is served on the "respondent," the person or company you feel has discriminated against you. They must respond under oath within 30 days, or within 10 days for a housing case. If the respondent does not answer, they may be defaulted and your case sent directly to a hearing to determine appropriate remedies for the alleged discrimination.
90-Day Merit Assessment Review (does not apply to housing complaints)
Within ninety (90) days from the date the answer is received, the Commission must conduct a merit assessment review of your complaint. The purpose of the review is to determine if the complaint (a) fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted; (b) is frivolous on its face; (c) names a respondent that is exempt from coverage, or (d) that the complaint and documents received indicate no reasonable possibility that further investigation will result in a finding of reasonable cause. If any of these determinations are made, the complaint will be dismissed for that reason.
The merit assessment review will be based upon: (a) the complaint (b) the respondentís answer and responses to the Commissionís requests for information if any; and (c) the complainantís comments, if any, to the respondentís answer and information responses, provided that the complainantís response (rebuttal) is filed with the Commission within (15) days of the complainantís receipt of respondentís answer.
All complaints NOT dismissed after a merit assessment review, will be retained and the Commission will determine the most appropriate method for the further processing of the complaint. Such methods may include one or more of the following: mandatory mediation, expedited or extended fact finding, or other methods full investigation.
After a response is received, cases are assigned in the order in which they are filed, to one of our investigators, as soon as the Commissionís caseload permits .
The investigatorís job is to act as a neutral person who will gather information about your complaint -- from you and from the person or company you feel has discriminated against you. The investigator collects documents and testimony from witnesses. You have the right to review any evidence in the Commission file.
Our investigator looks at the laws that apply to the case, and at the facts uncovered by the investigation, and determines if there is "reasonable cause" or "no reasonable cause" to believe that your rights have been violated under the law. The Commission strives to issue a finding within 190 days from the completion of the merit assessment review. The law provides for two, three month extensions in making this determination.
A "no reasonable cause" determination means a case will be closed for lack of sufficient evidence. This does not necessarily mean that the discrimination did not occur, but that the investigator could not find sufficient evidence to support your complaint.
Sometimes a case may be closed before an investigation is complete and a "determination" is made. Some examples are if both sides and CHRO agree to a settlement, if you withdraw your complaint, if you cannot be located, or if your complaint is one the Commission does not have the authority to handle. After 210 days from the filing of your complaint, you may request a release of jurisdiction to proceed in state court. If you request and are issued a release to sue, the law requires that CHRO close your case.
If our investigator determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination could have occurred in your case, our investigator is required by state law to try to achieve a voluntary agreement between you and the respondent to eliminate the illegal discrimination and to make you "whole" -- to restore you, as best as possible, to the position you would have been in if the discrimination had not occurred.
In an employment case, a settlement could include getting your job back, an award of back pay and lost benefits, or other remedies. In a housing case, a settlement could include getting the property you were denied, an award for the difference in rent you had to pay, money damages and attorney's fees, or other remedies to make you "whole" again. Link here to learn more about your settlement options.
The Public Hearing (Trial)
If your case is one that cannot be resolved by a voluntary agreement, a Human Rights Referee will decide the case. The Human Rights Referee presides over cases about discrimination, and the process is similar to taking a case to a judge in a courtroom. The difference is that you do not have to hire a lawyer, and there are no legal fees, or any other costs for you to pay, as in a court case. You may hire and pay an attorney to represent your interests if you so choose.
Prior to the public hearing, a settlement conference will be held which will be conducted by a Human Rights Referee, assigned only for the purpose of settlement. The Settlement Referee assists in possibly settling the case, to prevent the need for a public hearing. If settlement negotiations fail, the public hearing will be conducted as scheduled by the Presiding Human Rights Referee.
At the public hearing, a commission attorney or assistant attorney general will present the evidence of discrimination the agency has found in your case. You may choose to be represented by an attorney of your own selection as well. After hearing the witnesses and evidence presented at the hearing, and after the filing of various legal documents, the Human Rights Referee, within 90 days, will issue a decision in writing about the case. If the Human Rights Referee rules discrimination occurred, she or he will order the discrimination stopped and can order remedies, as described above.
You, the respondent or the Commission may appeal a public hearing decision to the state courts. Settlements, agreements and hearing referee orders may be enforced in the state courts by CHRO or by you.
What other services does the
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities offer?
Education Programs: Staff works to educate the public about human rights issues and organize community outreach activities.
Systemic Enforcement: Staff investigates complaints of illegal discrimination against a group of people because of their protected class status and develops enforcement strategies to end the discrimination.
Diversity Programs: Staff reviews and monitors affirmative action plans of State agencies.
Economic Programs: Staff reviews and monitors equal opportunity in State contracts and the use of minority business enterprises in State public works contracts.