OPA: How To File A CHRO Complaint

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"How to File A CHRO Complaint"
a P&A Self-Help Publication

 

Q.   What is the CHRO?

The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) is the state agency authorized by the Connecticut legislature to enforce civil and human rights laws in Connecticut. It investigates complaints of discrimination, based on an individual’s membership in a protected class, and that involve certain types of employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit transactions. Twelve to fourteen percent of the complaints filed with CHRO are disability related.

Q.   What are the protected classes?

The following are considered protected classes in the state of Connecticut: age; mental disability; religion; marital status; physical disability; race; color; familial status; learning disability; national origin; ancestry; gender; lawful source of income; sexual; orientation; service animal access and criminal record (in employment and licensing by the state).

Q.   Which entities are covered under state and federal laws?

Certain entities must comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. These include:

  • private employers (with three or more employees under state law, fifteen or more under the Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • state and local governments (including all departments, agencies and instrumentalities)
  • employment agencies and labor organizations
  • places of public accommodation
  • landlords
  • real estate agents/brokers
  • financial institutions

Q.   What is discrimination?

Discrimination is unfair treatment based on a particular personal characteristic, such as one’s race, sex, or age. Under state law, it is illegal for employers, employment agencies or labor organizations to discriminate against an individual based on a protected class in all employment practices including recruiting, the application process, hiring, training, compensation, and other “terms and conditions” of employment.

Employers, for example, may not refuse to hire an applicant because of his/her disability. These employment rights are codified in Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-60.

It is also illegal for state or local governments or places of public accommodation to discriminate, based on a protected class, in services provided to the public (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64). Members of protected classes may not be discriminated against in the sale or rental of public and private housing (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64c) and in any credit transaction including loans and mortgages (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-66). It is also illegal for covered entities to retaliate against individuals who file discrimination complaints or who oppose discrimination.

Under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-58, it is also a discriminatory practice to deprive individuals of any rights secured under the Connecticut or U.S. Constitution, or any state or federal law, on account of religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, blindness or physical disability.

Q.   How do I file a complaint?

If you have been the subject of discrimination, you may file a complaint with the CHRO. You can contact the CHRO by telephone, letter or in person. An intake officer will require you to complete various forms including a sworn complaint. If necessary and requested, CHRO will provide assistance in completing the forms.

Q.   What information should the complaint include?

The complaint should include, at a minimum, the following information:

  • your name and address;
  • name and address of the person(s) or entity who is allegedly discriminating against you;
  • detailed facts concerning the discriminatory act;
  • description of the events surrounding the discriminatory act should include: dates, places and names of people involved in and/or who witnessed the event(s);
  • CHRO complaints must be signed and notarized.

Q.   How Do I Contact the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO)?

 

There are four regional offices of CHRO:

 

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

West Central Region Office

55 West Main Street, Suite 210 - Waterbury, CT 06702 (203) 805-6530 (voice) (203) 805-6579 (TTY)

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

Capitol Region Office

999 Asylum Ave. 2nd Floor, - Hartford, CT 06105

(860) 566-7710 (voice) - (860) 566-1997 (fax)

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

Eastern Region Office

100 Broadway - Norwich, CT 06360

(203) 886-5703 (voice) – (203) 886-5707 (TTY)

(203) 866-2550 (fax)

Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

Southwest Region Office

350 Fairfield Avenue, 6th Floor

Bridgeport, CT 06604

(203) 579-6246 (voice or TTY)

(203) 579-6950 (fax)

 

CHRO enforces the laws which protect against violations of your housing rights.  If you have any questions or want to file a housing complaint, call the CHRO Fair Housing Unit at:

 

CHRO Fair Housing Unit Intake

25 Sigourney St. Hartford, CT  06106

(860) 541-3400 (voice) – (860) 541-3459 (TTY)

1 (800) 477-5737 Ext. 3403

 

Q.  When should I file the complaint? 

You must file the complaint within 180 days (approximately 6 months) of the date you knew or should have known of the discrimination. (Note: in some cases - if you are filing a complaint on both Federal and State law - you may have 300 days to file. Consult a private attorney or the CHRO if there is a question. However, you are always safe if you file within 180 days).

 

Advocacy Tip: It is important to file your complaint as soon as possible after the discrimination has occurred. The discriminatory acts will be fresh in your mind and easier to document.

 

Q. What happens after I file the complaint?

 

After your complaint is filed, the CHRO process will proceed in the following manner:

The Response - The complaint is delivered to the Respondent (the person or organization you feel has discriminated against you) within twenty (20) days. The respondent must respond within thirty (30) days of receipt of the complaint for an employment case or within ten (10) days for a housing case. The respondent may request an extension of fifteen (15) days for just cause. You will then have an opportunity to comment on the Respondent’s response.

 

Merit Assessment Review - Within ninety (90) days from the date CHRO receives an answer from the Respondent, your complaint will be reviewed by a merit assessment review investigator. The investigator will review the complaint; the Respondent’s answer; and your comments to the Respondent’s answer. An initial determination will be made by the investigator to determine if your case has merit. Your case will be dismissed if the investigator determines your case has no merit. (See,  “What To Do If Your Case is Dismissed”).

 

Investigation Stage - If your case is not dismissed after the merit assessment review, it will be assigned to an investigator. The CHRO has 190 days from the conclusion of the Merit Assessment to complete its investigation.

The investigator is a neutral person who will gather information from you and the Respondent. This information may include testimony from you, the Respondent and witnesses. Additionally, the investigator may collect and review any relevant documentation.

During the investigation stage you may participate in certain optional processes to resolve your complaint. These processes include:

1. Alternative Dispute Resolution - You and the Respondent have the option of utilizing an alternative dispute resolution process, often referred to as mediation. There are different types of alternative dispute resolutions and the CHRO will provide you with information regarding the different procedures. Both parties must agree to the type of procedure and there may be costs associated with this process. Usually a neutral person or association will conduct the procedure.

2.   Binding Arbitration - You may also decide you want to participate in a process known as binding arbitration.  This is another way your complaint may be resolved prior to a hearing. If binding arbitration is scheduled, you and the Respondent must attend or you will be defaulted and your case maybe dismissed. In addition, you must agree to accept the results of the arbitration process, and your case will be dismissed without prejudice once the process is completed.

The Determination - If no resolution is reached in Alternative Dispute Resolution (i.e., mediation), the investigation will proceed. After the investigator reviews the applicable laws and the facts based on the investigation, he/she then makes a determination of “reasonable cause” or “no reasonable cause” regarding your case. A finding of reasonable cause means the investigator believes you may be able to prove discrimination, if you have an opportunity to present your case at a hearing. A finding of “no reasonable cause” means your case will be closed because the investigator did not find sufficient facts to support your complaint.

 

Sometimes a case may be closed before an investigation is complete and a determination is made. This may occur if both sides 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.

 

With some exceptions, you may also request a release to sue in state court or a right to sue in federal court (if you have a federal claim), which, when granted, will close your case with the CHRO. If you request a release to sue in court, you must file your lawsuit in state or federal court within ninety (90) days after you receive a right to sue letter.

 

Q.   What can I do if my case gets dismissed after the investigation or the Merit Assessment Review?

 

You have the right to request that the CHRO reconsider its decision. You must ask for reconsideration within fifteen (15) days from the date of the dismissal. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §4-183, you also have the right to appeal to the Connecticut Superior Court. The Court, however, will only look to see whether the CHRO action was arbitrary or capricious, and will not consider whether discrimination did or did not take place.

Q.   What happens if the investigator finds “reasonable cause”

 

If the investigator makes a determination of reasonable cause, CHRO must try to negotiate an agreement between you and the Respondent within fifty (50) days of the reasonable cause finding. The investigator will attempt to eliminate the discrimination and attempt to put you in the same status you would have been if the discrimination did not occur.

 

In an employment case, a settlement could include reinstatement and back pay. In a housing case, a judgment could include getting the property you were denied, an award for the difference in rent you had to pay, or other remedies to make you “whole” again.

  

Q.   What happens if the investigator is unsuccessful with negotiating an agreement?

 

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the case will be scheduled for a hearing. A Human Rights Referee will decide the case. The Human Rights Referee is a lawyer appointed by the Governor to decide cases about discrimination. The process is similar to a case in court, except your case is decided by a hearing officer instead of a judge and there are no legal fees, or any other costs for you to pay, as in a court case.

 

During the hearing, a staff attorney from the CHRO will present the evidence of discrimination the agency has found in your case. You may be represented by an attorney if you choose to hire one. After examining any witnesses and evidence presented at the hearing, and after the filing of various legal documents, the Human Rights Referee, within 90 days, will make 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 previously.

 

Q.   What if the Human Rights Referee decides no discrimination occurred?

 

Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 4-183, you have the right to appeal the decision to Superior Court. The Court will not consider the merits of the case, however but only look to see if CHRO’s action was arbitrary or capricious.

 

Q.   Can the Respondent appeal if I prevail?

 

Yes, in the same way you can appeal, the Respondent has the right to appeal a final decision of the hearing officer to Superior Court. Again, the Court will not consider the merits of the case, but only look to see if CHRO’s action was arbitrary or capricious.

 

Advocacy Tip: You may want to have legal representation throughout the entire complaint process. This is particularly true if you have difficulty expressing your complaint or in participating in the process. Legal counsel can ensure your rights are protected, all evidence is brought forth, and your interests are protected.

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Content Last Modified on 1/25/2016 9:33:29 AM