If there is something that can cause an attorney nightmares, it is the possibility of missed deadlines. Recently, there was an attorney in California who missed a court deadline — BY ONE MINUTE — costing his client over $1 million in legal fees.
This morning, that nightmare is a reality for the Town of Bloomfield, courtesy of a decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court. According the court decision, the Town of Bloomfield missed the deadline for filing for an appeal of an arbitration award by two days. The court said, in essence, that the appeal should have been filed within 30 days of the decision because the basis for the appeal was that the award violated public policy. In such a case, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 52-420 — with its 30 day limit — applies.
Because the challenge to the arbitration award was untimely, the Court essentially upheld the award which ordered reinstatement — without back pay — of a Bloomfield Police Officer who was terminated in June 2004 for allegedly lying on an arrest warrant application and later to internal affairs officers, according to a report in today’s Hartford Courant.
Now, if this case sounds familiar, its because a few months ago, I reported on a CHRO decision which awarded the same police officer back pay for the period of time when he was out of work. The CHRO concluded that age discrimination played a role in his termination and thus warranted an award.
Would filing the appeal of the arbitration award have made a difference in the ultimate outcome. That’s unclear to an outside observer. But what is clear is that the Town of Bloomfield is essentially out of options.
As employers in Connecticut consider terminating employees, the case is also a lesson that deciding to terminate an employee may be only the beginning of a process, not the end. And for all the time and effort that may go in to preparing to terminate an employee, the same cautiousness and analysis should be applied afterwards as well. Understanding the answers to such questions as, "Is there an arbitration provision? If so, are there deadlines associated with it? Are there other internal grievance procedures that need to be followed?" will assist an employer in getting resolution on some issues — and sleeping better at night.