locplane[1]My colleague Chris Engler returns today with a recap of a new case in Connecticut that is of particular interest to employers who provide (or don’t provide) employment references.

We have all heard the admonition that “less is more.”

In an opinion that will be released next week, the Connecticut Appellate Court reminds us just how true that admonition is.  In fact, the court’s decision gave one employer more than 400,000 reasons to heed the adage in the future.

The case, Nelson v. Tradewind Aviation, LLC, arose from a defamation lawsuit.  According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had worked as a pilot for Tradewind Aviation for a summer back in 2007.  At the end of the season, the company needed to downsize for the winter.  The plaintiff and others were laid off.  His termination paperwork indicated that he had been laid off due to lack of work.

A few months later, the plaintiff was offered a job by another aviation company.  In accordance with federal regulations, this company had the plaintiff request his employment records and other forms from Tradewind Aviation.  Unlike the termination paperwork provided to him when he was laid off, on the new forms Tradewind Aviation’s representatives wrote that the plaintiff was involuntarily terminated and had had performance issues.

Tradewind Aviation then sent a letter to the prospective employer elaborating on these performance issues.  The next day, it faxed over a copy of a drug test report (which concluded that plaintiff had not taken any drugs) along with a note that allegedly tied the supposed performance issues to drug use.

When the prospective employee rescinded its job offer to the plaintiff, he filed suit against Tradewind Aviation.  He claimed that his former employer had engaged in defamation with malice.  A few years later, a jury wholeheartedly agreed, to the tune of over $407,000 in damages.

Not surprisingly, the employer quickly appealed the verdict.


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In helping employers on wage and hour issues, I’m struck sometimes by the occasional failure to maintain proper records on their employees.

For employers, payroll companies now offer to help an employer with such records and can often provide some of the information once the employer shares it with them.

The Connecticut Department of Labor lists eight types of wage & hour records that all employers, regardless of size must keep. They are:

  • The employee’s name and address.
  • The employee’s occupation.
  • The total daily and total weekly hours worked, showing the beginning and ending time of each work period, computed to the nearest unit of 15 minutes.
  • The total hourly, daily or weekly basic wage.
  • The overtime wage as a separate item from the basic wage.
  • Additions to, or deductions from, wages each pay period.
  • Total wages paid each pay period.
  • Working papers/statements of age for each employee under the age of 18.

The employer must maintain these records on their premises, though I haven’t heard of the Department coming down on an employer when such records are maintained electronically in the “cloud” — which is technically off-site.

But employers should consider going beyond the minimum.  If the Department of Labor does decide to do an investigation, it is likely that they will seek the following eight types of documents, at a minimum:
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As I catch up from being at the ABA Annual Meeting, my colleague, Mick Lavelle, prepared this terrific little post about some long-standing labor statutes that employers should not ignore.

The Connecticut Department of Labor enforces statutes which were first enacted in the days when payroll records were paper documents, to be stored in filing cabinets.  

With all the talk this week about Title VII and what I would call slightly more "advanced" issues in employment law, it’s always wise to make sure that you, as acourtesy morgue filen employer, have the basics down. 

One issue, for example, that employers sometimes wonder about but rarely figure out is "What Records Must I Keep

While everyone remains focused on the bcourtesy morgue fileudget dilemma at the state legislature, other business — slowly and quietly — is still occurring. 

Late last month, the House unanimously passed H.B. 6185, a measure that would create civil penalties for employers that do not provide access to personnel files of their employees. 

Specifically, this bill subjects