The United States Department of Justice recently filed a friend of the court brief with the Eastern District Court of New York arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover sexual orientation. However despite what is taking place at the National level, Connecticut has a separate statute which governs discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation. Connecticut General Statute 46a-81c states that:
It shall be a discriminatory practice in violation of this section: (1) For an employer, by himself or his agent, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment any individual or to discriminate against him in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual’s sexual orientation or civil union status, (2) for any employment agency, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to fail or refuse to classify properly or refer for employment or otherwise to discriminate against any individual because of the individual’s sexual orientation or civil union status, (3) for a labor organization, because of the sexual orientation or civil union status of any individual to exclude from full membership rights or to expel from its membership such individual or to discriminate in any way against any of its members or against any employer or any individual employed by an employer, unless such action is based on a bona fide occupational qualification, or (4) for any person, employer, employment agency or labor organization, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need, to advertise employment opportunities in such a manner as to restrict such employment so as to discriminate against individuals because of their sexual orientation or civil union status.
Employers who are accused of discriminating against an employee based on their actual sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation) may face a complaint filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities better known as the CHRO. Once the complaint process is initiated the employer will have to file an answer, attend a mandatory mediation, and participate in either a fact finding conference, a full investigation, or a combination of both whereby the CHRO may use its authority to subpoena records, subpoena documents, interview employees, and interview other witnesses. The process is not only very time consuming but can be very challenging for those unfamiliar with the CHRO case process.
If you are subject to a CHRO complaint, time is of the essence since failure to comply may result in a default judgment. All of our attorneys have handled CHRO complaints and have a proven track record in minimizing employer exposure. Please call our offices if you are subject to a complaint or would like more information on training for staff or management.