Business and employer-rights specialists are sounding the alarm over a pending bill they say would broaden Connecticut workers’ free speech powers in a way “never seen before” and bring about the most dramatic workplace changes in decades.
The Connecticut Business and Industry Association is calling on its members to oppose House Bill 6667 and says the proposal would “take an important legal protection — and court-confirmed right — away from Connecticut employers.”
The business group also says the bill would bar “private-sector businesses that discipline their employees for harmful things they may say on the job, even if those things are said in front of customers or other employees. HB 6667 is likely to create significant disruptions in the workplace with potentially numerous lawsuits between employees and managers.”
The bill was raised by the legislature’s Judiciary Committee this session and appears to define or clarify the duties of certain corporations. The statement of purpose for the measure says it is intended to “provide for the establishment of benefit corporations in the state, and (2) revise the statutory provision relating to an employer's liability for discharge or discipline of an employee in violation of the employee's constitutional rights.”
It’s the second half of that definition that is alarming the CBIA and lawyers who represent employers.
One workplace expert says Connecticut employers should also be alarmed by the measure, and should call their state representatives immediately to oppose it, because of a single line at the end of the bill that he says would give workers broad rights on the job to bad-mouth their employers.
“It could have the single biggest impact on employer/employee relations in a generation,” Daniel A. Schwartz, a lawyer specializing in labor and employment for the Hartford lawfirm Pullman & Comley, says in his blog. “It is crucial for employers to call their legislators immediately to make sure this bill does not pass. Time is of the essence.”
Schwartz says the bill would allow workers to bash their employers in the workplace without fear of retribution because it overturns previous court decisions that limit workers' constitutional free speech rights while on the job.
“Imagine if a shoe salesman told customers not to buy shoes because he thought the company does not pay its overseas workers sufficient wages. Should that ‘free speech’ prevent the employer from taking action? What about a cook at a fast-food restaurant who refused to serve hamburgers because he thought such food contributed to obesity? What then?”
On its website, the CBIA says the measure would “take an important legal protection—and court-confirmed right—away from Connecticut employers.”