Legislative Changes Affecting Employers

December 1, 1999 Advisory

Procedural Changes at the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).

Several important changes have been made to the time periods under which a CHRO complaint is processed. Respondents may now request extensions of time to answer an initial complaint, and the CHRO now has more time in which to make its initial Merit Assessment Review ("MAR") and "reasonable cause" determinations. However, the time frames for processing CHRO complaints are discretionary and, therefore, even if the CHRO does not process the case in accordance with these time frames, it does not lose its power to decide the case.

The hearing process has been changed. Before, hearings were held in front of part-time hearing officers, who were, almost universally, plaintiff's lawyers. Now, however, the law requires the Governor to appoint seven full-time "Human Resource Referees" to handle hearings for the CHRO.

When and what claims may be removed from the CHRO and be brought to the Superior Court has also changed. Before, the complainant had to wait 210 days before he/she could seek a "release to sue" letter from the CHRO. Now, the parties may mutually agree to adjudicate the case in Superior Court any time after a CHRO complaint is filed. The law also now allows claims of sexual orientation discrimination to be filed in Superior Court after they are filed at the CHRO. Previously, such claims could only be brought to the CHRO.

Genetic Information Discrimination.
Connecticut law now prohibits discrimination on the basis of "genetic information." Employers may not request or require from employees or applicants any information about "genes, gene products or inherited characteristics that may derive from an individual or family member."

Wage and Hour Changes.
The current state minimum wage increased to $5.65 per hour starting January 1, 1999 and will increase to $6.15 per hour beginning January 1, 2000. The Legislature also reduced the number of hours students under 18 who are enrolled in a secondary school can work. When school is in session, students may work only 32 hours each week and no more than 6 hours per day unless that day immediately precedes a non-school day. When school is not in session, students may only work 8 hours per day.

Workers' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustments.
The law now requires that the base for calculating workers' compensation cost-of-living adjustments for injuries occurring prior to October 1, 1991 be changed to either October 1, 1990 or the date of injury - whichever is later. Further, insurance companies or self-insured companies must send a notice to the address of any deceased claimant, if the claimant was receiving weekly benefits at the time of his/her death, stating that dependents may be eligible for survivors' benefits. There is no need to determine whether there are in fact eligible dependents or to track them down.