An Act To Enhance the Administration of the Maine Human Rights Act
Sec. 1. 5 MRSA §4554, sub-§§5 and 6 are enacted to read:
Sec. 2. 5 MRSA §4566, sub-§3, as amended by PL 1985, c. 785, Pt. B, §36, is further amended to read:
Sec. 3. 5 MRSA §4566, sub-§4, as enacted by PL 1971, c. 501, §1, is amended to read:
Sec. 4. 5 MRSA §4566, sub-§6, as amended by PL 2005, c. 10, §7, is further amended to read:
Sec. 5. 5 MRSA §4566, sub-§10, as amended by PL 2005, c. 10, §8, is further amended to read:
Sec. 6. 5 MRSA §4566, sub-§11, as amended by PL 2005, c. 10, §9, is further amended to read:
Sec. 7. 5 MRSA §4612, as amended by PL 2011, c. 613, §§19 and 20 and affected by §29, is further amended to read:
§ 4612. Procedure on complaints
Documents containing information set forth in this subsection are not "public records," as defined in Title 1, section 402, subsection 3, and do not become a matter of public record under this section.
An administrative dismissal operates as an order of dismissal and has the same effect as a finding by the commission that no reasonable grounds exist to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred.
(1) In unlawful housing discrimination, that the housing accommodation sought is likely to be sold or rented to another during the pendency of proceedings, or that an unlawful eviction is about to occur;
(2) In unlawful employment discrimination, that the victim of the discrimination has lost or is threatened with the loss of job and income as a result of such discrimination;
(3) In unlawful public accommodations discrimination, that such discrimination is causing inconvenience to many persons;
(4) In any unlawful discrimination, that the victim of the discrimination is suffering or is in danger of suffering severe financial loss in relation to circumstances, severe hardship or personal danger as a result of such discrimination.
Sec. 8. 5 MRSA §4614, as enacted by PL 1981, c. 255, §3, is amended to read:
§ 4614. Attorney's fees and costs
In any civil action under this Act, the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party , other than the commission, reasonable attorneys' attorney's fees and costs, and except that the commission shall be liable for attorneys' fees and costs the same as a private person may not be awarded attorney's fees and costs and is not liable to pay any party's attorney's fees and costs.
Sec. 9. 5 MRSA §4622, sub-§1, ¶A, as amended by PL 1993, c. 327, §3, is further amended to read:
This bill amends the Maine Human Rights Act so as to make more efficient the processing and investigation of complaints. The bill:
1. Specifies that the Act must be construed to provide broad protection from discrimination; that it may not be construed to provide less coverage than the federal law; and that the interpretation of the Act by the Maine Human Rights Commission is entitled to deference by the court;
2. Authorizes the executive director of the commission to appoint or hire additional necessary personnel subject to the Civil Service Law;
3. Replaces certain references to the enumerated potential bases for discrimination with references to "protected class characteristics, membership or status";
4. Specifies that funds received by the commission for the purpose of implementing a 3rd-party neutral mediation program are not subject to any statewide cost allocation plan;
5. Designates as confidential certain information that is collected during the investigation of a complaint under the Act and exempts such information from the definition of "public record" for purposes of the Freedom of Access Act;
6. Authorizes the executive director of the commission to administratively dismiss a complaint brought under the Act for specified reasons;
7. Provides that any post-finding conciliation agreement that includes the commission as a signatory is a public record;
8. Authorizes the executive director to issue a right-to-sue letter in any case in which the commission has not filed a civil action in the case or has not entered into a conciliation agreement in the case within 180 days of the complaint being filed, whether or not such a letter has been requested by the complainant; and
9. Prohibits the awarding of attorney's fees and costs to the commission and specifies that the commission is not liable to pay attorney's fees and costs of another party.