Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints: General Processes and Procedures
THE PURPOSE OF THESE GUIDELINES
The purpose of these guidelines is to summarize the processes and procedures used by the Office of Public Hearings (OPH) in its administration of whistleblower retaliation complaints filed under General Statutes § 4-61dd(b)(2).
This memorandum is merely an informal guideline and does not (and is not designed to) take the place of applicable statutes and regulations that govern such complaints. A person considering filing a whistleblower complaint is encouraged to consult with an attorney.
Parties should familiarize themselves with the applicable laws and should carefully read and follow the information and instructions set forth in notices or other documents issued by the Chief Human Rights Referee or the presiding referee.
I. APPLICABLE LAW
The processes and procedures for the filing and adjudication of a whistleblower retaliation complaint are governed by § 4-61dd of the General Statutes, §4-61dd-1 et seq. of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (§ 4-166 et seq.) and case law interpreting these statutes and regulations.
II. FILING AND SERVICE OF PAPERS
The complaint and all subsequent pleadings, motions, requests and other documents must be filed in duplicate at:
Office of Public Hearings
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
450 Columbus Boulevard
Hartford, CT 06103
Papers are deemed filed when they have been date stamped as received by the OPH. Papers may be filed Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM.
A party filing papers with the OPH must certify that a copy of those papers has been mailed, hand-delivered, or sent via facsimile to all other parties of record.
Any papers that do not meet these requirements may be returned.
NOTE: Any papers that are filed with the OPH are available for public inspection, subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
III. COMMENCEMENT OF THE PROCEEDING
Once a whistleblower retaliation complaint is filed, the Chief Human Rights Referee assigns the complaint to one of the Human Rights Referees. The OPH then sends a “Notice of Initial Conference and Hearing” to all parties containing, among other things, the date for an initial conference between the presiding referee and the parties, and tentative dates for a hearing (trial). The initial conference will take place within thirty days of the date the complaint is filed. All parties must attend this conference.
At the initial conference, the presiding referee will identify all of the parties’ responsibilities prior to the hearing and establish specific deadlines for meeting those responsibilities. This includes establishing deadlines for the production of documents and objections thereto and for the filing of witness and exhibit lists and objections thereto. To accommodate the needs of the parties, the referee may also change the dates previously selected for the hearing. After the initial conference, the referee will issue a written order confirming the schedule, the parties’ responsibilities, and any other requirements discussed at the conference.
The presiding referee may allow a party to participate in the conference by telephone, in accordance with Section VIII below.
IV. THE ANSWER TO THE COMPLAINT
The respondent (the person against whom the complaint is made) must file a written answer to the complaint with the OPH within ten days after receiving a copy of the complaint. The Notice of Initial Conference and Hearing will have a copy of the complaint attached to it.
The respondent must also send a copy of the answer to the complainant (the person filing the complaint). If the complainant amends the complaint after the answer is filed, the respondent must file an answer to the amended complaint as well.
Failure to file an answer may result in an order of default, followed by a hearing to determine the complainant’s damages without the need to prove the respondent’s liability.
V. POWERS, DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE REFEREES
The presiding referee has the powers, duties, and responsibilities set forth in the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (§ 4-166 et seq.), in General Statutes § 4-61dd, and in § 4-61dd-1 et seq. of the regulations. The presiding referee has the authority to control the entire contested case proceeding, including but not limited to the authority to convene a status conference as needed to facilitate and expedite the proceedings; determine the scope of the hearing; administer oaths and affirmations; consolidate proceedings or portions thereof; rule on motions and requests; determine the admissibility of testimony and documentary evidence; issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to provide testimony or produce physical evidence; examine witnesses and control the examination of witnesses; adjudicate issues of law and fact; issue a final decision and order; and take any other appropriate actions to ensure a fair and impartial proceeding.
Parties may appear “pro se” (that is, on their own behalf) or through an attorney licensed to practice in law in Connecticut or other duly authorized representative, as allowed by law. A party is responsible for retaining his or her own attorney. Neither the CHRO nor the OPH gives legal advice or provides legal representation to any party.
VII. CONTACTING THE REFEREE
Due to the prohibition against ex parte communications, no party to a case may speak to the presiding referee outside of the presence of all the other parties. However, you may contact the administrative office of the Office of Public Hearings between the hours of 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday, (except state holidays) as follows:
VIII. TELEPHONIC CONFERENCES
A party may request a telephonic conference or may ask to participate in an otherwise “live” conference via telephone by filing a written motion with the OPH and serving a copy of the motion on the other parties. The presiding referee has the discretion to grant such motion. If the motion is granted, the party who filed the motion shall be responsible for setting up the conference call or arranging his or her own telephonic participation, and shall assume all of the costs associated therewith. If the presiding referee requires a telephonic conference call, the call shall be arranged and paid for by the OPH.
Absent a showing of good cause, a motion for a continuance must be filed no later than ten (10) days prior to the proceeding or deadline for which the continuance is sought. However, the initial conference must be held within thirty (30) days of the filing of the complaint.
If a party seeks a continuance of a meeting, conference or hearing, the moving party, prior to submitting a motion for continuance, must confer with the other parties and, in the motion, must represent all parties’ positions with respect to the continuance. The motion must also include three alternative dates and times that all parties have agreed are mutually convenient.
If a party is seeking an extension of a deadline for the filing of a document, the motion shall, whenever possible, represent the position of the other parties with regard to that motion.
Motions for continuance must be filed as set forth above. No matter should be considered as continued until the presiding referee issues an order granting the continuance.
X. THE HEARING (TRIAL)
The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the respondent(s) violated § 4-61dd of the General Statutes and, if so, what relief will be provided to the complainant. The hearing provides all parties with an opportunity to offer evidence and testimony, to examine witnesses under oath and to present legal argument. Following the completion of the hearing, the parties may be given the opportunity to file written legal briefs.
A party desiring to introduce an exhibit into evidence must offer an original document (or a copy, if all parties agree or if otherwise allowed by the presiding referee), which, if admitted by the referee, shall become a part of the official record. In addition, the party shall provide a copy of the exhibit to all other parties. The parties generally exchange copies of their exhibits prior to the hearing to avoid the element of surprise.
A professional reporting service will record the hearing proceedings and produce a verbatim transcription thereof. The OPH does not provide copies of the transcripts to the parties. The parties must make their own arrangements with the reporting service.
XIII. RETENTION OF RECORDS
The records in all whistleblower retaliation cases are retained by the OPH. The parties have the right to inspect and copy documents, statements of witnesses, and other evidence pertaining to the complaint, except as otherwise provided by federal or state law. A photocopying cost may be imposed in accordance with § 1-15 of the General Statutes.
XIV. RECONSIDERATION, REVERSAL OR MODIFICATION OF THE FINAL DECISION.
The final decision of the referee may be reconsidered, reversed, or modified in accordance with § 4-181a of the General Statutes.
Either party may appeal the referee’s final decision in accordance with § 4-183 of the General Statutes.
XVI. GENERAL INFORMATION
The presiding referee may permit recording of a hearing or other proceeding in accordance with § 1-226 of the General Statutes. In order to minimize disruption of the proceedings, the referee may impose reasonable limits on any person engaged in recording the proceeding.
The OPH and its hearing rooms are wheelchair accessible. A party requiring additional assistance (such as a language interpreter or signer for the hearing impaired), should contact the OPH in writing to ensure that special needs are addressed with reasonable accommodation.
The referees’ decisions and rulings in other cases are available for public review both on this website (see below) or at the OPH itself. Requests to review decisions and rulings at the OPH must be made in advance in writing, by telephone (860-418-8780) or by email (CHRO.PublicHearings@ct.gov).
Persons who have access to WestLaw services can find the referees' decisions in the CT-CIVDEC directory.