The CHRO is no stranger to taking aggressive positions in the court system.
So, it can really be no surprise that the agency wanted to expand who is covered by the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
But the Connecticut Supreme Court, as it has done before, was having none of it. The end result of the case is one that frankly is of interest more to employment lawyers than to the clients we serve.
The newest case, CHRO v. Echo Hose Ambulance, will be officially released this week. But we have an advance release opinion which makes it clear that unpaid volunteers — even those that serve in the volunteer ambulance corp — aren’t entitled to coverage under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Of course, the issue framed is slightly different; the court said it was called upon to determine “what test” should be applied to determine whether an unpaid volunteer is an ‘‘employee’’. “More specifically, we must decide whether a volunteer must satisfy the predominant ‘‘remuneration test’’ used to resolve similar federal causes of action or Connecticut’s common-law ‘‘right to control’’ test.”
The court concludes that the remuneration test is appropriate. The remuneration test instructs courts to ‘‘conduct a [two step] inquiry by requiring that a volunteer first show remuneration as a threshold matter before proceeding to the second step—analyzing the putative employment relationship under the [common-law] agency test. Remuneration may consist of either direct compensation, such as a salary or wages, or indirect benefits that are not merely incidental to the activity performed.”
The case isn’t that much of a surprise after last year’s Appellate Court decision which held the same thing. As my colleague, Gary Starr, wrote back then that what matters is how the person is remunerated. As he noted then, “for employers and organizations, the decision provides a notable reminder to review the status of your volunteers to ensure that you haven’t transformed any of them into “employees”.”