The law protects you against discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit transaction matters. If you have been discriminated against in any of these situations, you have the legal right to make a formal complaint.
However, discrimination claims are really different from the typical car accident or fall-down personal injury lawsuit. In those cases, you can proceed directly into court. That’s not the case with discrimination. Before you can file a lawsuit for illegal discrimination, you first have to bring a mandatory administrative claim through the government anti-discrimination agencies. There are valid reasons for this requirement.
Lawsuits take time – in fact, some lawsuits take years and years. In the meantime, if you have been discriminated against, you really need a speedy resolution to your specific problem, and society at large wants the discriminatory practice to end immediately, or else other people might suffer the same fate while we wait for the court system to reach your particular case.
To counter these problems, the state and federal government have set up twin administrative agencies to investigate and resolve discrimination claims. The goal of these agencies is to provide quick, out-of-court relief from discrimination. The law requires you to bring your discrimination claim to these agencies first to try to reach an administrative solution before you go to court.
The Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities (the CHRO) is the state agency set up to address discrimination claims. The federal counterpart is called the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (the EEOC). These agencies overlap, and it is common that you would file your discrimination claim with both of them depending upon your specific facts and circumstances.
You should never delay in filing a discrimination claim. There are strict deadlines. You must file with the CHRO within 180 days of the act of discrimination. Likewise, you have 300 days to file with the EEOC. However, the EEOC only applies to claims made under federal laws. Connecticut’s state law often provides far greater protections against discrimination than federal law. So, it is important to timely file with the CHRO to get the greatest amount of anti-discrimination protection. Your attorney can best advise you as to where to file your administrative complaint. If you miss these filing deadlines, you will not be able to bring your claim.
The Administrative Process
Once you’ve filed, the agency (or both) will conduct investigation, mediation, and possibly a fact-finding hearing into your claim of discrimination. The other side is required to participate.
The administrative process has been highly successful in settling discrimination matters, and in setting up rules and systems aimed at reforming against future discrimination. However, the remedies are limited in the administrative process. You can’t receive money damages for emotional pain and suffering, attorneys’ fees, or punitive damages. If your claim is not successful, you can appeal the decision to the court system.
Sometimes, the administrative process with the CHRO or the EEOC isn’t the best way to solve your discrimination claim. Sometimes, even the agencies get backlogged. After a certain time period, if the reviewing agency has not resolved your claim, you have the legal right to seek a release of your claim from the agency to file a lawsuit in court. There are strict time deadlines on doing so, and you should seek legal counsel to advise you on the best solution for you.
If you bring a lawsuit, you are entitled to full legal remedies for damages. For instance, in an employment discrimination case, you could claim back pay, missed bonuses, compensatory damages, damages for pain and suffering, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages.
Discrimination claims involve complex legal issues and procedures. Although the agencies are intended to reach quick settlements, you need to make sure that you timely file and timely litigate your discrimination case, or else you run the risk of being blocked from court. We strongly advise you to consult with one of our discrimination attorneys if you believe that you have a valid claim. We are here to help!