The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a decision to be officially released next week, ruled Wednesday that several state workers can proceed with their claims that they were fired for political reasons in January 2003.

The decision in Conboy v. State of Connecticut (download here), arises from the state’s decision in early 2003 to layoff over 2800 unionized workers. The employees claim that then-Governor Rowland targeted them (and their unions) because they did not support Gov. Rowland politically and because they were involved in a union.  They brought suit under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51q which applies constitutional protections to state workers in some instances.

While the case may have a big impact for this group of employees (and the class of workers that they intend to represent), for private employers that case will have a minimal impact. The issue the court was deciding was really the proper procedure for a lower court to use in deciding a motion to dismiss when certain basic jurisdictional facts are disputed by the parties. The Supreme Court said that it was inappropriate for the lower court to dismiss the case at this early stage because the employer’s motivation for the layoffs was a fact in dispute (though nothing prevents the case from being dismissed once certain facts are known).  

While a news report on Wednesday suggested that the case will now be set for trial, the case is more likely to go through more motions and discovery as well as a request for class certification.  In short, this case is just beginning again.

For more feedback on the court’s ruling (including an overture of settlement), the Associated Press has released this report.