The big news in Connecticut this morning has to be the retirement of Senator Chris Dodd and the announcement by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that he will seek that seat.
This is most definitely NOT a political blog so I’ll leave it to others to figure out the political ramifications.
But what has yet to be explored is the impact that Blumenthal ‘s departure from the AG’s office will have. Whether a Democrat or Republican fills that seat will certainly determine the scope of that change. But, assume for a moment that a Democrat retains that seat, will it have any impact on employers in the state in the enforcement of labor & employment laws?
The short answer is that it probably won’t have a direct impact, but indirectly, it’s hard to see of a future Attorney General taking as public a stand on issues as Blumenthal has for nearly twenty years.
So why no direct impact? As a practical matter, enforcement of the state’s labor & employment laws actually resides primarily with the state Department of Labor and the Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities. While the office does get involved from time to time, it is mainly at the request of the state agencies and departments.
The AG’s office does have an "Employment Rights Office" but that unit doesn’t do what you might think it does. Rather, by its own description, it defends the state against discrimination claims:
This department defends state agencies and state officials in employment related litigation and administrative complaints and provides legal advice and guidance to state agencies on employment issues. We are currently defending the state in approximately 160 employment cases in the state and federal courts, as well as a similar number of complaints before the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
But indirectly, Blumenthal’s departure has the potential to change the landscape for employers in Connecticut. Blumenthal has made no secret of his strong support for labor unions, for example. Indeed, on several occasions, he has filed "friend of the court" briefs in various cases where he thought the state’s interests were at stake. (For example, his office filed a brief in the recent Pratt & Whitney plant closing dispute.)
It remains to be seen if the next Attorney General has anywhere near the level of commitment that Blumenthal had to getting involved but even if a Democrat is elected, it will be big shoes to fill.