Not every case can be a U.S. Supreme Court case filled with sweeping pronouncements on employment law.
Indeed, many times the law develops through under-reported cases that you’ll never hear about. The pronouncements may not be sweeping on those cases, but those cases help clarify a point that had been left uncertain before then and may open the door to other arguments as well.
Take the case of Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services v. Saeedi, a Connecticut Appellate decision (download here) that will be officially released on July 9th.
Its ostensibly a whistleblower case under Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 4-61dd, where — as part of the damages awarded to the whistleblower — the CHRO ordered agency personnel to undergo professional ethics training and to alter the personnel file of the employee.
But the court was asked to look at something greater: Under the state’s whistleblower statute, where the CHRO has the power to award “any other damages”, does that include equitable (or non-monetary) relief?
The Appellate Court, in reviewing the language of the statute and the legislative history, concluded “no”. Thus, the ordering of training was improper under the statute. But notably, the court said that because the CHRO was empowered to order reinstatement, the altering of the personnel file was appropriate to achieve that result.
That conclusion is not entirely surprising.
But the Appellate Court goes on a bit further in language that employers may see again in the future and that opens the door a crack to arguments about whether the CHRO can award other relief (perhaps even emotional distress damages) in discrimination cases. (For background, I’ve talked about the CHRO’s attempt to include emotional distress damages as part of the award of damages.)