Back in 2010, I wrote a simple blog post about how organ donors were protected under Connecticut’s FMLA law.  In it, I recount how my father — 25 years prior at that time — donated a kidney to his brother (my uncle).  At the time, I noted that both were well.  

On Sunday, October 28, 2018, my uncle passed away after a short illness.   Dr. Allen Schwartz was retired as the Deputy Director of Policy and Enterprise solutions at NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and recently served as a Senior Policy and Research Analyst at Westchester Institute for Human Development. He leaves behind his wonderful wife, Andrea, and two adult children.  Allen was blessed to contribute so much to society in the 33 years since that organ transplant and he will be sorely missed. 

In honor of Allen, I’m reprinting the blog post below.  Become an organ donor today.  

FROM THE ARCHIVES – September 2010

25 years ago nearly to the day, my father donated one of his kidneys to his brother.

What have you done today? Have you done everything you could? Could you have done better?

They may seem like unfair questions after the first sentence.

But tonight is the start of Yom Kippur – a Day of Atonement in the Jewish religion and one of the holiest days of the year.  And as part of the services tonight and tomorrow, Jews around the world will be asking tough questions of themselves all with the goal of being a better person next year.

And so, to honor my father and his heroism and provide education and insights in the employment law context in the way I know best, today’s post is all about organ donation and what employers need to know.  My goal is to begin a discussion this important issue in Connecticut.

FMLA is typically thought of in the medical context or childbirth/adoption process.  But Connecticut’s FMLA statute actually provides protection for those employees who become organ or bone marrow donors.

Donors are to be provided with the same amount of leave (16 weeks over a 2 year period) that, say, new mothers and fathers are accorded.

This is still a relatively new law — having been passed just six years ago fairly quietly.

If you’re an employer, what does this mean? Well, for one, your FMLA policies should be updated to let your employees know that they can be a living organ donor — and still have their job protected.

Employers can also update their FMLA forms to provide for organ donation is a category to check off. Many employers tend to use the Connecticut DOL’s forms (at the end of the regulations) — assuming that they are the most complete forms out there. But even those forms do not include language about being an organ donor.  (Don’t look to the US Department of Labor either; their forms just follow federal law, not state law.)

Enterprising employers might think to seek out the Connecticut DOL regulations for some guidance. But those employers would also be out of luck. Those regulations haven’t been recently updated and say nothing about how employers should handle such requests.  (Authors note: Still not updated in 2018!) Indeed, if you just read the regulations, you might even think that organ donors are not protected because language about “organ donors” isn’t even there.  (Conn. Regs. Sec. 31-51qq-7 is a perfect example.)

Perhaps a representative from the Department of Labor can take the opportunity to update their website on this category and provide additional information, in the absence of formal regulations.   Without that, organ donors may be left wondering if their jobs are protected if they choose to donate.

In the meantime, employers are on their own to take steps to educate their workforce about the protections offered under Connecticut’s FMLA for organ donation.  Employers should be sure their forms and policies are up-to-date and remove any barriers to organ donation that their employees might think exist.

Credit should be extended to the many employers that have done a lot in this area, including some local companies (Aetna and Bank of America).  The Workplace Partnership for Life initiative is truly a win-win campaign in which everyone can play a significant role in recruiting potential organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donors. Thousands of U.S. corporations, organizations, and associations are working to create a “donation friendly America” by joining the Workplace Partnership for Life.

(And, of course, if you haven’t become an organ donor, do it today.  You can download the form from the DMV off their website and mail it in. Or when you renew your license, you can become a donor then.  The DMV has a FAQ about the process on their website as well.)

And what of my father and his brother? They’re both living healthy and productive lives.  And we continue to celebrate many holidays together.

If through this post and actions by employers, we can ensure that another family has that same benefit, I think we can say that today was at least a pretty good day and we did what we could. Think about the simple changes that your workplace can make today.

James “Larry” Foy passed away earlier this week.  (His memorial service is scheduled for tomorrow in Southwick, Massachusetts.)

For those of us in Connecticut that were blessed with having had a case with him as an arbitrator or mediator — and there were many — his death will leave a substantial void.

Indeed, Larry was a labor arbitrator and mediator for so long that it’s hard to realize there was a time he wasn’t a fixture in Connecticut.

Here’s the telling statistic from his obituary:

Since 1979 Larry has privately arbitrated over 2,000 grievance arbitrations in the public and private sectors throughout New England. He has arbitrated over 400 municipal, teacher and state employee interest arbitration disputes. Larry has mediated over 1,000 collective bargaining contract negotiations between boards of education and bargaining units of certified teachers and/or administrators. – See more at:

So what happened in the year prior to 1979? Well, one of my partners kept documentation that.  And so, with the permission of Brian Clemow, we thought we’d relay a letter that Brian wrote about Larry way back in 1978.

Back then — when gas was just 63 cents a gallon and the Bee Gees were over the airwaves — Brian wrote a recommendation letter to the American Arbitration Association on behalf of Larry.  While he noted that as a representative of management, “Larry does not always view things in the same light as I view them”,  he suspected that union representatives would say the same thing.

Brian suggested that Larry would have a “high level of acceptability as an arbitrator in the eyes of both labor & management.”

Decades later, that prediction came to fruition time and again.  Larry became one of the area’s most well-regarded arbitrators.  I have no doubt that I speak for my colleagues and those around the state in saying that Larry will be sorely sorely missed.

I can’t say that I knew Palmer McGee particularly well.  But I was saddened to read of his passing last month at the age of 93.

My first knowledge of Palmer (or Mr. McGee as I tried to call him early on) came from my mother. Palmer served as Town Attorney in Farmington, Connecticut for many years and helped provide counsel to my mom who was an employee in town at the time.  My mother described him a thoughtful and kind man. (Upon his passing, she updated her view with “what a lovely man!” too).

He had a house up at Lake Ninevah in Vermont, not far from where my parents had a ski cabin.  And he talked first with my mother, and then me, about how pretty the area was and I learned later of his preservation efforts there.

When I became a law student, he offered to talk with me about the practice of law.  It wasn’t a long conversation, but it remains vivid to me because I remember being a bit overwhelmed by his stature.  He had practiced law for over 40 years and had such a gentleman-ly demeanor about him.   He would have none of it, but it was hard for a student like me to see how someone could have such a long and successful practice like him.  He counseled studying hard and said that when I was ready, he’d be happy to forward my resume on to someone at his firm at the time, Day, Berry & Howard.

That time came late in the summer of 1993 shortly before the start of my second year of law school.  No one from the firm would visit my school for an on-campus interview, but I believe that Palmer helped get my resume noticed so that I could get a legitimate job interview for a summer position.  I flew out to Hartford (I was in law school at St. Louis at the time) and he scheduled me to stop by his office to say hi and offer a warm welcome.

I got that summer position at Day, Berry & Howard in 1994 and it started me on a career that, twenty years later, remains a passion to me.

Palmer always held himself out as a professional. I have no idea if that’s the case; after all, most of his 40+ year career was done long before I started at Day, Berry & Howard.  But when I joined the firm, he talked about how enjoyable the practice of law and working at the firm was.  He gave a bit more of some simple advice to me: Work hard and don’t forget to treat the practice of law as a profession.

We didn’t have a lot of interaction during my further years at DBH.  He retired to Florida soon after I joined the firm.  He went on to write his memoir in 2005.  But his impact on my career is something I’ll forever be thankful for — even if it was small to him.

I moved on from DBH several years later and DBH became Day Pitney.   There’s no mention of Palmer on that law firm’s website, but his former DBH colleagues had some very kind words to say about him in a revealing profile on the Hartford Courant.

His son had this to say about him: “He tended to be a conciliator who tried to find a common ground even in an adversarial setting.”  That’s a terrific skill to have.

I’m grateful that Palmer showed me a small sliver of that approach and the benefit of helping others in the profession.   And thankful that my life was touched in a gentle way by him.

United States District Court Judge Mark Kravitz passed away this week.  He had been fighting valiantly against ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). But for those of us familiar with the disease, it has no cure and death is, for most, only a matter of time.

The Connecticut Law Tribune posted an article last night remembering him, adding that Connecticut lawyers were “saddened” to hear of his passing.

Sad is certain the right adjective. Judge Kravitz was known for his brilliant mind and even-handed demeanor.   He epitomized the best qualities we seek in jurists: fair, bright, and respectful. 

In the employment law arena, he crafted numerous opinions that delved into topics such as whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act covered employees who were no longer pregnant (yes), and whether a company’s failure to fill a posted position could constitute discrimination (no). 

His death leaves the federal court bench shorthanded

A sad day indeed.     

 

The bench lost another notable judge this past week. Judge Peter Dorsey — who was the former chief judge of the District of Connecticut and who continued to serve despite taking “senior” status — died Friday at the age of 80.

I last appeared before Judge Dorsey very late last year. He had a wonderful sense of humor during that last session and he could still disarm both attorneys and clients with his wit.

It wasn’t always easy.  His trial preparation order was, for many years, the most unique of them all.  But you knew what to expect and he had the quality that most judges seeks — the perception of being fair-minded.

He handled numerous employment-related claims and you can review many of them on Google Scholar here.  His shoes will be hard to fill.

Connecticut lost a fine trial judge this week.  Judge Robert Satter died Monday at the age of 92.

Most employers have probably never heard of him.  That’s a shame because they probably would’ve liked him.

(There was a great interview conducted with him from the Rutgers Oral History Archive. Read it. I’ll wait.)

I only knew Judge Satter late in his career by reputation and by his work as a Judge Trial Referee — a polite place where retired judges go to continue

Judge Robert Satter Died Monday

doing public service work.  In the times when I had a settlement conference with him, he was a lawyer’s judge who understood the issues at hand but who could help persuade the parties that they had more to lose by trying a case than by settling. He presided over many trials in his decades on the bench and to hear my colleagues speak about him, there are many who say that there just aren’t a lot of judges like him anymore.

Which is why judges like Robert Satter still matter in this world.  These front-line judges never get the glory of a Supreme Court position, but those in the know, know that doesn’t matter.  There are still plenty of bright and quite capable judges who do the work at the trial court level.  These cases never get the glory or press spotlight but they are just as important to our justice system.

But to read about his life and to know him, is to appreciate the importance a good judge can have on an employer’s case.  A judge may not decide every issue in your favor but a good judge — indeed, a great judge — can rule against you and still make you feel like you achieved something. You were heard and in the case of Judge Satter, you knew you were going to get a fair shake.

Judge Satter was involved in discrimination issues in his career too not only as President of the Connecticut Chapter of the ACLU but as a legislator. When he was in the legislature he “introduced the first bill in the Connecticut Legislature that made it unlawful to discriminate in private housing, based on race, religion, creed and so forth.” He “got it passed” and described himself as a unabashed “liberal and I was always involved in racial issues.”

Late in life, Judge Satter penned several columns for the Connecticut Law Tribune in which he shared a lot of his wisdom.  But I like this section from his oral interview that encapsulates what Judge Satter was about.  He was asked what his favorite thing in his career was:

Well, actually, as a lawyer I loved representing clients. I loved being on their side and carrying their banner into the fray in court. Enormous satisfaction out of that, not cases that won me a lot of money, but cases that made a difference in their lives. … [A]s a judge, I’ve enormously enjoyed the intellectual and … human characteristics of the job. I loved the challenge of taking a group of facts and applying the law to them and make a decision that seems to achieve justice. … I love the human quality of deciding cases where I have discretion, where I can help people in one way, or the other. … So I’ve enjoyed each aspect of my career enormously. … I don’t have to go to court everyday. I mean, I’m over eighty-seven, I’m eighty-seven. I could have quit, stopped at seventy, but we can continue as a senior judge. … I come in everyday because I want to, because it’s fun, because I love the challenge. I think I’m good at it, I hope I’m good at it.

He was definitely good at it. He will be missed.

Department of Labor Commissioner Patricia Mayfield — who had signaled that she was retiring as of February 1st — died yesterday at her home in Waterbury of an undisclosed illness.  In her place, Linda Agnew, of West Hartford, will serve as acting commissioner.

The Hartford Courant has a full report on her life and accomplishments here.  And the Waterbury Republican-American does an admirable job providing some personal anecdotes about Ms. Mayfield as a person and leader. 

Ms. Mayfield has had to manage the agency in difficult economic times. Yet despite the challenges, in recent years there has been a noticeable uptick in the amount of outreach that the DOL has done to the public and to businesses. 

Indeed, as she noted in her website page, she touted the ability of the DOL to serve as a partner to the business community for "job-related consulting services, apprenticeship programs, recruiting services through the job bank and the One-Stop Centers, OSHA assistance, regulations, wage and workplace standards, rapid response to company downsizing or closure, shared work programs, and labor market information." 

The DOL’s ramped-up use of the shared work program — while not new — has been ramped up over the last 2 years in response to the desire from employers to minimize job losses and keep continuity in their business operations.  That program has no doubt kept hundreds, if not thousands, of people from losing their jobs entirely.

Governor Rell’s statement goes a long way to explaining what made Ms. Mayfield special:

Her distinguished career with the state of Connecticut stood as an outstanding example of dedicated public service and consummate professionalism…Pat Mayfield deeply cared for the people she served, and she made a difference in the lives of countless Connecticut citizens.

Well said.