If you own a private business in Connecticut and have employees, a recent Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision (Trusz v. UBS Realty Investors, LLC.) is a game changer.
In this much anticipated decision, the state’s highest court ruled unanimously that “under the state constitution, employee speech pursuant to official job duties on certain matters of significant public interest is protected from employer discipline in a public workplace, and that [Conn. Gen. Stat.] § 31-51q extends the same protection to employee speech pursuant to official job duties in the private workplace.”
This decision is in contrast to a 2006 decision by the United States Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos, which held “that when . . . employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for [f]irst [a]mendment purposes, and the [United States] [c]onstitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline”. The Connecticut Supreme Court determined that the Garcetti ruling does not override the free speech protections found in the Connecticut’s state constitution, which the Connecticut court found provide a higher level of protection.
The lawsuit in the Trusz matter was filed by a former UBS employee who was terminated by UBS for disclosing that the company had overstated the value of a number of its real estate holdings. In the suit, Trusz argued that UBS violated his Connecticut constitutional rights by firing him – pursuant to sections 3, 4 and 14 of Article One of that constitution.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut will now continue consideration of the case using the opinion of Connecticut’s highest court.
If you have questions about this case and its possible implications for your business, call us. The attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale each have over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment law and the rights of employers. Please contact us if we can help you.
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