The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity (CHRO) was sued yesterday by its longtime (and former) Regional Manager Pekah Wallace.  The federal lawsuit claims her employment termination was improper and provides a whole host of information about what has been going on behind the scenes at the agency.

You can download the complaint here.  

“Joe, in response to all this NFL stuff, we want you to display U.S. flags at your workstation.”

“No.”

“Well, then you’re fired.”

Don’t think that can happen? Then you haven’t heard about the Cotto v. United Technologies Corp. case — a long-forgotten Connecticut Supreme Court case from 20 years ago that has particular

“President Trump is a Big Fat Idiot” or, for that matter, “Secretary Clinton is a Sore Loser.”

Let’s suppose you see one of your employees tweeting one of these expressions on Twitter during non-work hours from a personal account.

Can you discipline or even fire your employee over that tweet?

That, in essence, is at the heart of an issue that has been circulating in the sports pages (and in the President’s press briefings) over the last week due to the tweets of ESPN Sportscenter Anchor Jemele Hill from her personal account that were critical of the President.

The New York Times, in fact, ran a story on Saturday discussing the legal ramifications; it was nice to be quoted in the article.

While that article does a good job of summarizing the law in part, there’s a bit more to the story that is useful exploring (however briefly) in a blog post.

First off, people do not generally have a First Amendment protection for things that that they say that their employer finds out about.

Say you go to a white supremacist rally in, oh, Charlottesville and your employer finds out about your speech at the rally. You can be fired because of that generally.

But but but.

A state like Connecticut has a law that says that gives employee a right to sue their employer if the employer disciplines or fires the employee because of that employee exercised their free speech rights under both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, AND the Connecticut Constitution.

Importantly, the speech has to be of a matter of “public concern” and courts will look to see if the person is speaking in his or her capacity as a concerned citizen; criticisms of your own personal workplace will often times not satisfy this standard.

Political speech is almost always the type of speech that courts will consider of a “public concern”.

The Connecticut Supreme Court said in 1999 (not 2015 as The New York Times indicated) in Cotto v. United Tech. Corp. that Connecticut’s free speech statute applied to speech made at an employer’s premises.


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U.S. Supreme Court

Much will be written about the new First Amendment free-speech-in-the-workplace case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court today.

But frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them say nearly the same thing — that testimony by an employee who has been subpoenaed outside the course of his

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti several years ago, there was a lot of chatter about whether public employees still had substantive First Amendment free speech rights.

And for a short while, the trend did seem to indicate that speech that related to an employee’s “official job duties” was to be construed

In last week’s post about an important new free speech case from the Connecticut Superior Court, I highlighted one aspect of the court’s ruling.

Today’s post addresses another aspect — though this may have more significance to practitioners in the area than anything else.

Connecticut’s free speech statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51q, contains

The dust is still settling from the mad dash that is the end of the Connecticut General Assembly session. 

I’ll have more in the upcoming days as events warrant, but here’s a quick look at a few items that I’ve been tracking in recent weeks. 

Employers: If there is one proposed bill at the Connecticut General Assembly to be concerned about this year, it is the stealth House Bill 6667.  It could have the single biggest impact on employer/employee relations in a generation.  

And that’s just for starters.

If you look at the bill on the legislative website, it looks innocuous enough.  It didn’t go through the normal channels, like the Labor & Public Employee committee, and thus has been off most people’s radar screens.  There hasn’t even been an analysis done by the Office of Legislative Research.   Most of the bill actually discusses something entirely different. 

That’s a ploy. 

Buried in the very last section in the very last sentence is the proverbial trojan horse, one that would change the workplace in significant ways. This section would overturn a vital Connecticut Supreme Court case (indeed, one that I was on the winning side of) that said that employee speech that relates to the job is not protected as “free speech” under the Connecticut or U.S. Constitution.   Notably, it would also overturn U.S. Supreme Court precedent in Connecticut as well. 

It is crucial for employers to call their legislators immediately to make sure this bill does not pass.  Time is of the essence.  If you need to look up your legislator, you can find all the contact information on the CBIA website here. 
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