In a decision that will be officially released on Tuesday, November 24th, the Connecticut Appellate Court has ruled that wrongful termination and breach of implied contract claims cannot be brought against the State of Connecticut due to the protections of sovereign immunity.
The case Ware v. State of Connecticut (download here), will be of greater interest to private employers because it also held that the employee did not file a hostile work environment or retaliation claim first with the CHRO — the state agency responsible for investigating such complaints — and therefore was barred from bringing those claims in Court (for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies).
The employee had brought a CHRO claim alleging gender and pregnancy discrimination, but the Appellate Court found that the new claims brought "are not so closely related to the allegations in her complaint to the commission that they reasonably would have been investigated by the commission."
The case presents another chapter in the litany of cases that have been coming down defining the limits of sovereign immunity. Earlier this year, the Connecticut Supreme Court in Lyon v. Jones reversed an appellate court that had relied on sovereign immunity to dismiss an employee’s claims. The claims here are different, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Supreme Court reacts to this case and if it decides to weigh in on this issue.
As a final matter, the court also held that punitive damages cannot be sought against the state in discrimination claims. Again, this decision will bring some clarity on claims brought against the state.