State Law: Connecticut

 

The Law


Connecticut's anti-discrimination law, Chapter 814c, makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex.


An "employee" under Chapter 814c is defined as, "any person employed by an employer but shall not include any individual employed by such individual's parents, spouse or child, or in the domestic service of any person." Under Connecticut law, an "employer" means, "the state and all political subdivisions thereof and means any person or employer with three or more persons in such person's or employer's employ."


Chapter 814c covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, age, sex (including sexual orientation), marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability.


The Connecticut statute applies to all employers with three or more employees, whereas Title VII only applies to employers with 15+ employees.


Sexual harassment in Connecticut is defined as "any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature when (a) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (b) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (c) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment."


Connecticut also makes it unlawful for an employer "to request or require information from an employee, person seeking employment or member relating to the individual's child-bearing age or plans, pregnancy, function of the individual's reproductive system, use of birth control methods, or the individual's familial responsibilities, unless such information is directly related to a bona fide occupational qualification or need, provided an employer, through a physician may request from an employee any such information which is directly related to workplace exposure to substances which may cause birth defects or constitute a hazard to an individual's reproductive system or to a fetus if the employer first informs the employee of the hazards involved in exposure to such substances."


Filing A Complaint


The Connecticut Commission investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Under state law, complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you became aware you were being discriminated against or the date of the alleged illegal act. You may file a complaint with the Commission by visiting a regional office, calling, or writing a letter and mailing it to one of the four regional offices. Please see the Commission’s website to find out which regional office you should contact. You can reach the Commission’s Administrative Headquarters at 1-800-477-5737.


Once you file a complaint with the Commission, the Commission will send your employer a letter and a copy of your complaint, stating that you believe you were/are being discriminated against. The employer will have an opportunity to respond to this complaint.


The Commission conducts a Merit Assessment Review of all employment discrimination complaints within 90 days, after which it will conduct an investigation if the complaint is not dismissed during the merit review. An investigator will be assigned to your case, who will act as a neutral decision-maker to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated.


If reasonable cause is found, you and your employer will be required to attempt to negotiate a settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, a public hearing will be held, overseen by a Human Rights Referee. If your case goes to public hearing, you will not have to incur any legal expenses or other costs, as you would have to pay in a court case, unless you hire your own private attorney. This process can be timely and may take a couple years. You can review some of the Human Rights Referee Decisions on the Commission’s website at by clicking "Search Public Hearing Decisions" and typing in "sex discrimination."


You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC or Connecticut Commission and request a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter in order to file in court. The attorney you hire will explain this process to you. Many Connecticut attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court. State law does not limit or cap the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages recoverable for a discrimination claim that are capped under federal law.


For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities website.