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. 
Continue Reading Proposed Bill Would Create Chaos for Employers and Constituionalize Common Workplace Grievances

Free Speech in Workplace Has Limits

In one of the most significant employment law cases decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in recent years, the Court unanimously ruled earlier this month that an employee’s free speech rights in the private workplace do not extend to speech pursuant to his job duties.  Those rights do not cover insubordinate behavior either. In doing so, the Court reversed the jury verdict to the employee of approximately $10 million.

I typically don’t write about cases that I’ve handled, but given the importance of this case, the client, LabCorp, has approved an exception. My public thanks to them for allowing me to share this important case with you. (I first alerted you to the case in this post.)

The case, Schumann v. Dianon, can be downloaded here.  You can read the basic facts there but the case concerned a laboratory doctor who refused to use certain diagnostic codes for lab tests that were being performed and claimed that it would affect patient safety.   He brought a claim under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51q which purports to apply First Amendment protection to Connecticut employers. (You can view additional articles about the case here, here and here.)

A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Garcetti v. Ceballos, that when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, such speech is not protected by the First Amendment. Because the First Amendment typically applies to public employers, the issue in the Schumann case was whether the Garcetti rule applied to actions brought against private employers in Connecticut. A state statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51q and prior caselaw has applied First Amendment protections to both public and private employers.


Continue Reading Conn. Supreme Court Rejects $10M Verdict; Insubordination is Not Protected Speech

In a post from earlier this week , I indicated that a new Appellate Court decision had some interesting points on wrongful discharge claim that were worth exploring. At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court released a FMLA decision that made a few headlines.

But what I didn’t mention was this: the takeaways from these cases are something only your company’s lawyer is going to love.

First, the Supreme Court case (Coleman v. State of Maryland).  It answered the “burning” question of whether public employees could sue under the “self-care” provisions of the FMLA. 

Not that many of us were asking the question in the first place. 
Continue Reading Decisions Only Your In-House Lawyer Could Love

Haven’t we heard this before?

A Bourne, Massachusetts firefighter was recently fired for — imagine this — his Facebook posts in which he  "allegedly railed against [a] police officer over some incident, angrily carried on about being forced to work on the Fourth of July holiday and  made a homosexual slur", according to press reports