Connecticut Civil Rights Law Chronology
Like every body of law, civil rights law in America has been evolving since our founding fathers first declared their independence from English rule. Similarly, Connecticut civil rights law is in a constant state of evolution. CHRO, as the state’s civil rights enforcement agency, has evolved with, as well as contributed to the development of human rights law in Connecticut and beyond. This page provides a chronological history of Connecticut civil rights law, highlighting the contributions made by CHRO through the years. (For laws related to affirmative action link here.)
Chronology of Selected Connecticut Laws & Executive Orders
1818 Connecticut State Constitution was adopted, declaring all men equal in rights and guaranteeing freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly.
- 1866 Connecticut was first state to ratify 14th Amendment to U.S. Constitution. (Guaranteeing equal protection under the law)
- 1868 Public schools required to serve all children regardless of race or color.
- 1876 The State Constitution amended to eliminate the requirement that voters be white. (23rd Amendment)
- 1884 Deprivation of state or federal constitutional or legal rights because of alienage, color or race was made punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. (Sec 46a-58)
- 1887 Discrimination in the sale of insurance because of color forbidden.
- 1905 Public Accommodations Act adopted, guaranteeing full and equal service in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement. (Sec. 46a-64)
- 1917 Law makes a person liable to fine and imprisonment if he "by his advertisement" ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or persons because of creed, color, denomination, nationality or race.
- 1920 State ratifies the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
- 1937 State employment discrimination because of color or political or religious affiliations was outlawed under the State Merit System (Sec. 5-227)
- 1943 Inter-Racial Commission founded by law, the nation's first official civil rights agency.
- 1947 Fair Employment Practices Act was adopted, making it an illegal practice for employers of five or more persons, employment agencies, unions or individuals to discriminate in terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of race, color, religious creed, national origin or ancestry. Under the jurisdiction of the Inter-Racial Commission, the law also authorized the Commission to study the problems of discrimination in all or specific fields of human relationships. (Chapter 814c, P.A. 171)
- 1949 Commission authorized to adjust complaints under the Public Accommodations Act based on race, color or creed. Discrimination in public housing projects prohibited.
- 1949 Segregation is outlawed in the Connecticut National Guard.
- 1951 Commission on Civil Rights was adopted as a more appropriate name for the Inter-Racial Commission.
- 1953 Public Accommodations Act amended to cover all types of businesses that depend on the public for their support (P.A. 326)
- 1955 General Assembly amends the Public Accommodations Act giving the Commission authority to initiate complaints where it is thought that discrimination is practiced in public and publicly-assisted housing. (P.A. 55-410) Legislature passes an amendment to the Fair Employment Practices Act making discriminatory employment advertising illegal.
- 1959 Public Accommodations Act amended to cover private housing and authorizes the Commission to initiate complaints if there is reason to believe discrimination is practiced.
- 1959 Fair Employment Practices Act amended to provide affirmative powers which include the authority to order a complainant be hired, readmitted to union membership, and/or be paid back wages, if the complainant has been the victim of discrimination. The Act was further amended to cover persons who are discriminated against because of their age. (P.A. 59-145)
- 1963 Discrimination in the sale or rental of most private housing prohibited.
- 1965 A new section in the revised Connecticut Constitution's Declaration of Rights states "No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law nor be subjected to segregation or discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of his civil or political rights because of religion, race, color, ancestry, or national origin. (Article I, Sec 20)
- 1965 Commission is empowered to subpoena employment records during employment investigations and to petition for an injunction in housing cases. National origin or ancestry added to public accommodations and housing law.
- 1965 Contract compliance law requires every contract to which the state is a party must contain a clause stating that the contractor agrees not to discriminate or permit discrimination. (P.A. 65-366)
- 1967 Protection against sex discrimination added to the Fair Employment Practices Law. (P.A. 67-426)
- 1967 Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities adopted as a more appropriate name for the Commission on Civil Rights.
- 1967 State contractors required to supply CHRO with information regarding their employment practices and procedures. (P.A. 67-284)
- 1967 A Code of Fair Practices was established by Executive Order of Governor Dempsey, to be observed by state agencies and officials in complying with civil and human rights laws in all official acts. Among the special areas that call for anti-discrimination procedures are separate sections on: all state personnel practices; education, vocational, employment and other training counseling and placement services; distribution of funds, grants, benefits, loans or other financial assistance; all housing, resorts and other areas covered by the Public Accommodations Statute; and contracts and subcontracts for goods and services, or for construction of public buildings or public works. The Code repeats the General Statutes' nondiscrimination clause included in all public contracts, with its requirement that all state contractors "not discriminate or permit discrimination." (Sec.4-114a) The public was urged to cooperate in carrying out the policies of this Code and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities was ordered to continue to expand its enforcement and education programs. All state agencies were ordered to cooperate fully with these programs; to include anti-discrimination activities in their annual reports; to comply with Commission requests for relevant information; and to consider Commission recommendations for implementing state anti-discrimination policies. (Executive Orders, February and September, 1967)
- 1967 Acting on recommendations of the Governor's Conference on Human Rights and Opportunities, the General Assembly created the Legislative Commission and the Executive Committee on Human Rights and Opportunities, which sought to assure compliance with all civil and human rights laws by executive branch agencies. (P.A. 67-636) CHRO was named secretariat to the Executive Committee.
- 1969 Provisions of the 1967 Executive Order, A Code of Fair Practices, were adopted into law by the General Assembly, with enforcement by the Court of Common Pleas. (Sec 46a-70 through 46a-78)
- 1971 By Executive Order, Governor Meskill required state contractors and subcontractors to file compliance reports on their equal employment opportunity practices, prescribed by state law. He authorized the labor commissioner to administer and enforce these regulations, including the right to cancel violators' contracts; ordered all state agencies to name their own compliance officers; and outlined procedures whereby other state agencies can recommend that CHRO bring appropriate enforcement proceedings in cases where substantial violation may exist. (Executive Order #3, June 16, 1971)
- 1973 An independent Permanent Commission on the Status of Women was established, to oversee women's rights and needs, with discrimination complaints to be referred to CHRO. (Chapter 812)
- 1973 By Executive Order, Governor Meskill required the State Personnel Department to assume primary responsibility for assuring that equal employment opportunities exist within all state agencies and departments. The State Personnel Department was also ordered to develop and administer a statewide affirmative action plan. (Executive Order #18, May 8, 1973)
- 1973 Physical disability added as a protected class. (P.A. 73-279, P.A. 74-57) Persons with a criminal record added as a limited protected class. (P.A. 73-347) Sex added as protected class in public accommodations and housing law. Sex and marital status added as protected classes in credit transactions. (P.A. 73-573) Pregnancy leave benefits and job rights were specified under employment discrimination law. (P.A. 73-647)
- 1974 The State Constitution's Declaration of Rights was amended to prohibit the denial of equal protection of the law and segregation or discrimination in the exercise of civil or political rights because of sex. (Article I, Sec. 20)
- 1974 Marital status added as a protected class under housing law. Sex added as a protected class to contract compliance law and to the law prohibiting deprivation of legal or constitutional rights.
- 1975 Development of Affirmative Action Plan in cooperation with the State Personnel Department was required of all State agencies, departments, boards and commissions. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities was authorized to review and approve each plan, issue complaints if plans are not filed or are in violation of anti-discrimination laws, monitor the activity of such plans, and report annually to the Governor and the General Assembly. (Sec. 46a-68, P.A. 75-536)
- 1975 Age added as protected class in public accommodations and credit transactions law. (P.A. 75-350)
- 1976 Discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry and physical disability prohibited in credit transactions.
- 1977 General Assembly passes House Joint Resolution #25 (April 27, 1977) authorizing the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee to conduct an investigation of compliance with sections 4-6b, 4-6d, 4-61k and 4-61s by the Departments of Education, Labor and Transportation.
- 1977 The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is granted authority to receive and initiate complaints for violations of the State's Code of Fair Practices, effective October 1, 1977. (Sec. 46a-82)
- 1977 Deprivation of state or federal legal or constitutional rights expanded to cover physical disability.
- 1977 CHRO authorized to petition court for injunctive relief in employment cases.
- 1978 Mental retardation added as a protected class. (P.A. 78-148) Mandatory retirement based upon age is prohibited for private sector employees. (P.A. 78-350)
- 1979 Present or past history of mental disorder is added as a protected class. (P.A. 79-480) Employers are required to make reasonable effort to transfer pregnant workers engaged in occupations which are believed to be hazardous to a temporary, suitable position.
- 1980 All statutes concerning human rights and opportunity are revised and recodified. (Chapter 814c)
- 1980 Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited in employment law. (P.A. 80-285) Religion and national origin covered under law prohibiting deprivation of legal or constitutional rights. Intentional desecration of property and cross burning are made Class A Misdemeanors.
- 1981 Refusal to rent to families with children in some rental property is prohibited. (P.A. 81-81)
- 1983 After a sunset review process the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is reestablished with additional responsibilities and obligations to review agency affirmative action plans, provide training and technical assistance to affirmative action officers in plan development and implementation, and issue regulations establishing standards for agency affirmative action plans.
- 1984 Governor William A. O'Neill issues Executive Order 9 reinforcing the efforts and commitment of state government to equal opportunity through affirmative action, directing all agencies to comply with affirmative action statutes and regulations, designating CHRO as the central coordinating agency for assuring that equal opportunity through affirmative action exists within state service, mandating the Commission to provide training and technical assistance to all agency affirmative action officers, requiring agency heads to ensure that affirmative action officers are fully trained, and making CHRO responsible for supervising, reviewing and monitoring the development of state agency affirmative action plans and for providing policy guidance, coordination, and direction in the uniform development and implementation of affirmative action plans by state agencies.
- 1984 Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities issues regulations establishing substantive standard for agency affirmative action plans and procedures for review and approval/disapproval of such plans.
- 1984 State Constitution's Declaration of Rights is amended to cover denial of equal protections of the law and segregation and discrimination in the exercise or enjoyment of civil or political rights because of physical or mental disability.
- 1988 Discrimination on the basis of mental disability prohibited in public accommodations and housing.
- 1989 Lawful source of income added as a protected class in housing and public accommodations protections.
- 1990 Public Act 90-246 creates separate fair housing statute distinct from public accommodations law and makes Connecticut housing law comparable to federal law in details of substantive provisions and in procedural rights and remedies, which include substantial penalties for violations.
- 1990 Public Act 90-330 adds learning disability as a protected class.
- 1990 CHRO issues Regulations on contract compliance and approval of contract compliance programs.
- 1991 Public Act 91-58 adds sexual orientation as a protected class, as proscribed in sections 4a-60a and 46a-81a to 46a-81o.
- 1991 Private right of action provided for complainants who have filed employment complaints still pending with CHRO after 210 days. (P.A. 91-331)
- 1992 Commission authorized to require employers to post notices and provide training to supervisory employees concerning sexual harassment. (P.A. 92-85)
- 1993 CHRO issues Regulations concerning description of organization, rules of practice, and personal data.
- 1994 Public Act. 94-238 authorizes CHRO to use mandatory mediation and to dismiss some cases without a full investigation under specific limited circumstances.
- 1998 Public Act 98-180 adds genetic testing as a protected class.
- 1998 Public Act 98-205 encourages the state to hire and retain disabled persons.