Connecticut Lawmakers Move To Silence Employer Speech


Connecticut’s Democrat lawmakers have introduced a slew of workplace-related legislation that, if passed, will have ‘significant impact’ on employers.

Connecticut lawmakers have introduced a slew of legislative proposal’s affecting the state’s workplaces.

“With a substantial Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate—and a newly elected Democratic governor—there is a good chance that several employee-friendly bills will pass this year,” stated Jason R. Stanevich and Sharon B. Bowler of the Littler law firm.

Of the bills proposed, one is clearly aimed at silencing employers during union organizing campaigns.

Senate Bill No. 64 – An Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings – is intended to prohibit an employer from coercing employees into attending or participating in meetings sponsored by the employer concerning the employer’s views on political or religious matters. “Political matters” is defined to include the decision “to join or support any . . . labor organization.” The proposed bill also makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize an employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee of a suspected violation concerning captive audience meetings. Employees would be able to sue for such violations no later than 90 days after the date of the alleged violation, and, if a violation is found, the court could order all appropriate relief, including reinstatement, treble damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

Notably, former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen issued a formal opinion on similar legislation in April 2018. The Attorney General concluded that if faced with the issue, a court would conclude that the legislation’s provision prohibiting employers from requiring employees to attend employer-sponsored meetings to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning joining or supporting a union is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Section 8(c) of the NLRA sets forth an explicit “free speech” exemption for employees and employers alike, which provides that “the expressing of any views, argument, or opinion, or the dissemination thereof, whether in written, printed, graphic, or visual form, shall not constitute or be evidence of an unfair labor practice under any provisions of [the Act], if such expression contains no threat of reprisal or force or promise of benefit.” Current Attorney General William Tong has not publicly opined on Senate Bill No. 64. [Emphasis added.]

As noted above, if the legislation were to pass into law, it would not likely survive a legal challenge based upon a ‘preemption‘ argument.

However, it should be noted that, proposed federal legislation—known as the Workplace Democracy Act—would also forbid employers from holding mandatory meetings.

Read more of Proposed Labor and Employment Bills Affecting Connecticut Employers.


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