With apologies to P!nk (and her hit, “Just Give Me a Reason”), a new court decision gives new meaning to the phrase. 

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Before we get to that, longtime readers of the blog will no doubt be familiar with the burden-shifting analysis that courts use to analyze discrimination

The Connecticut Appellate Court yesterday released two notable employment law decisions. They won’t become “official” until April 30, 2013, so you have some time to digest them.  I’ll cover one today and leave the other for a future post (though if you’re really curious you can read it here.)

To me, the more interesting

Sometimes, cases that seem like a no-brainer are anything but.  Just ask the Town of Stratford which finally won an appeal to the Connecticut Appellate Court.

The case, Stratford v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 15 (download here), will be officially released next week. 

Firing for lying? Caution ahead

The case arises from the town’s termination of a police officer.  After suffering an epilectic seizure and striking two parked cars, the officer was requested to go to a physician for a fitness for duty exam after his own physician cleared him for work.  

After the independent medical exam, the employer’s HR director “discovered discrepancies between the report and the medical information supplied to the town by [the employee’s] personal physician.”

The employer then charged the employee with violating police department policy for lying during the independent medical examination and he was subsequently terminated after a hearing.

The case went to arbitration. For those who are skeptical of arbitration, you can imagine what happened next.

The arbitration panel reinstated the police officer concluding that termination was “excessive” and that “lying about his physical and mental condition to doctors that could return (or prevent) [him] to work is understandable because [he] wants [his] job back.”

The employer moved to vacate the arbitration decision. Notably, its rationale was limted to police officers, arguing that Connecticut public policy encourages honesty by police officers. The Superior Court disagreed, but the town found a friendlier audience in its appeal to the Appellate Court. 

We agree with the town that these authorities plainly demonstrate a clear public policy in Connecticut in favor of honest police officers and, consequently, against lying by police officers in connection with their employment.

As a result, the Court overturned the arbitration result and the termination is allowed to stand. (No word yet whether this will be appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.)

What does this mean for employers? Two things.
Continue Reading Lying to Doctors for Fitness for Duty Exam Can Still Get You Fired… But Only If You’re a Police Officer

Some cases are easy to explain in a short blog post.

This is not one of them.

But a new Connecticut Appellate Court case released today, Grasso v. Connecticut Hospice, Inc. (download here)  has too many nuggets of information to pass up.  It is an example to employers about how cases never truly seem to be over in this litigious climate and that details are important — even in settlement agreements. 

Background Facts

Here are the background facts:

  • Plaintiff employee worked as an employee for the hospice from 1998-2010. 
  • In 2009, she filed two complaints with OSHA regarding some defective chairs.  The administration ordered the hospice to repair the chairs.
  • Later that year, the Plaintiff then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA claiming that she had been retaliated against and harassed since the filing of the OSHA complaints. The administration found “reasonable cause” to believe a violation had occurred.
  • Thus in January 2010, the Hospice and Plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement on the whistleblower complaint where she worked as a part time employee in two offices.  The agreement contained a release of future claims for events that occurred prior to the execution of the agreement.
  • End of story, right? Wrong. One week later, the Plaintiff-Employee wrote to the company and alleged that they were breaching the settlement agreement.  Later that year, she quits.
  • You know what happens next, right? She filed a six-count complaint in Superior Court alleging a whistleblower violation, breach of the settlement agreement, breach of the employee handbook and claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress.   The defendant filed a counterclaim asking for declaratory judgment on the release she signed.  The Superior Court granted summary judgment to the employer.

The legal rulings

How many times do you have to win?

That’s a question that employers may ask themselves when dealing with employment cases because the fact is, a enterprising litigant can make things quite expensive on the thinnest of facts. 

Zombie Lawsuits?

Indeed, employers may be wondering if these cases are like

The Connecticut Appellate Court released three significant employment law decisions on Monday — one of the busiest days in recent memory for the court.

For employers, the cases are a mixed bag but do provide some useful practice pointers.

City Sheriff Was Not an “Employee” Entitled to Statutory Protection 

In Young v. Bridgeport, the Court

It will come as no surprise to employers that summary judgment (essentially, throwing out a case before trial) in employment cases in state court is hard to get.  State judges are typically reluctant to grant such a motion, which means cases get scheduled for trial — an expensive and uncertain proposition at best for employers. 

When employers do get summary judgment, their victories may be shortlived. Just ask the employer in the case of Li v. Canberra Industires (download here), which will be officially released on March 27, 2012.

In that case, the employer had criticized the plaintiff for many months on her performance and the employer had the documentation to support it.  In fact, she was told that if her performance didn’t improve, she could be fired.  She was transfered to a new supervisor.


Continue Reading Court: Employee’s Complaint Trumps Performance Issues

Back in February 2009, I talked at length about whether compensatory damages (for things such as emotional distress) was properly awarded in employment discrimination claims that proceeded to a hearing at the CHRO.  I went on to say back then that I believed the agency and the human rights referees at the agency had been