Author: Mark Sommaruga

Don’t Make Promises That You Cannot Keep: Greenwich Silver Shield Association v. Town of Greenwich, the FOIA and Discrimination Investigations

Investigations in the public sector confront the competing demands of employee privacy rights and the public’s “right to know” under the Freedom of Information Act [“FOIA”]. Another decision by the Freedom of Information Commission [“FOIC”] reminds us that the scales tilt decidedly toward disclosure. In Greenwich Silver Shield Association v. Director, Human Resources Department, Town…

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Lies and Unemployment Compensation Proceedings – You Cannot Get Sued Again

A typical part of a contentious employment termination matter is the inevitable unemployment compensation claim.   While a multiplicity of claims may emanate from the ugliness of job separation, the Connecticut courts continuously remind us that employers need not fear being sued for defamation for negative statements that they may make regarding a former employee during…

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The Police Have The Right To Remain Silent Too: The Supreme Court Rules On The Disclosure Of Police Reports Under The FOIA

The Connecticut Supreme Court has resolved an intense debate about what law enforcement agencies are required to release with regard to arrest records and associated reports.  This decision  could affect the ability of school boards, municipalities and other public bodies to investigate employee and student misconduct. The Court’s decision in Commissioner of Public Safety v.…

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Blood is Thicker Than Water: The Obligation To Bargain Over Nepotism Policies

It seems sensible for an employer to have a nepotism policy restricting the circumstances where an employee may supervise a family member (or make employment decisions such as compensation, discipline, evaluation, or promotional opportunities).  However, at least in the unionized workplace, and especially in the public sector, employers cannot let common sense get in the…

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Fortunately, Sometimes Life is “Unfair”: Town of Greenwich v. Greenwich Municipal Employees Association and Reversal of an Overreaching Arbitration Decision

Lawyers like to believe that arbitration decisions concerning employee discipline should be made in accordance with the law and the applicable collective bargaining agreement, not solely by an arbitrator’s personal notions of fairness.  In a decision issued June 5, 2014, a Superior Court judge reminded us that while arbitration rulings usually are difficult to overturn,…

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Pregnancy and “Forced Sick Leave.” The Intersection of State and Federal Law, and What Is Permissible In the Connecticut Workplace

The situation that is at the epicenter of a recent controversy involving a Pier 1 employee, and a recent Connecticut federal court case, arises in the context of a pregnant employee being unable to carry out essential job functions due to a pregnancy-related condition.  The employer may then “force” the employee to commence the use…

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Wage Hour Claims and Casuto v. Town of Greenwich: The Department of Labor Investigation Is Not The End of The Story

Employers who have been through an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Labor Wage & Workplace Standards Division unfortunately have intimate knowledge of the potential burdens of defending against employee wage claims.  To make things even less joyous for employers facing such claims, the Connecticut Superior Court’s recent decision in Casuto v. Town of Greenwich,…

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The Aftermath: Developments From The 2014 Session of The Connecticut General Assembly Affecting The Workplace

The 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly has just concluded.  The following is a cursory description of bills that were passed by the General Assembly that may be of interest.  A more detailed summary of these enactments will be forthcoming. S.B. No. 32/PUBLIC ACT No. 14-1: AN ACT CONCERNING WORKING FAMILIES’ WAGES.  This Act…

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Update From The 2014 Session Of The Connecticut General Assembly Regarding “Employee Privacy”/Social Media

 On April 23, 2014, the Connecticut Senate approved Senate Bill No. 317, “An Act Concerning Employee Privacy.”  This bill would generally prohibit employers from requiring employees (or job applicants) to provide passwords or user names to their “personal online accounts” as a condition of employment.  Among other things, the bill does contain an exception allowing…

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When Is Someone “At Work”? Implications For Unemployment Compensation Eligibility (And Beyond)

Connecticut’s unemployment compensation statutes disqualify individuals from eligibility for benefits for certain misconduct, such as “willful misconduct in the course of employment.”  A recent court case notes that the “course of employment” could include conduct by individuals in the course of grievance and other labor relations proceedings. In Morales v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation, 2013 WL…

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Latest Developments From The Connecticut General Assembly: The Labor and Public Employees Committee Speaks

Before the deadline for committee action, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee voted favorably on a plethora of bills and advanced them out of committee. Among the most noteworthy were: 1) a bill increasing the minimum wage, which has already been passed by both houses of the General Assembly and signed into law…

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The Best Defense Is A Good Offense: Employers’ Use of The FOIA For Background Checks

In representing primarily public sector bodies over most of my career, I have generally been in a position of advising clients in how to comply with Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests, and thus usually assist those in a “defensive” posture.   However, in light of the FOIA’s limited protections and exemptions with regard to the…

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What is the Appropriate Punishment for Actual and Perceived Threats in the Workplace?

Employers increasingly are concerned about threats to safety in the workplace.  At the same time, employers must be aware of the rights of any  employee accused of wrongdoing.  For a discussion of a recent case highlighting this tension, please visit Education Law Notes.…

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Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly

The General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee will be having its next public hearing on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 1:00 PM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building. The Committee will consider the following bills: Senate Bill. No. 219 (RAISED), AN ACT CONCERNING THE MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT SYSTEM CONTRIBUTION RATE.  This bill…

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“Mind Your Own Business”- The Connecticut Supreme Court Limits Challenges to Licensing and Certification Decisions by Public Agencies in Lopez v. Bridgeport Board of Education.

In a much ballyhooed case, certain residents and taxpayers of the City of Bridgeport brought a “quo warranto” action in the courts, challenging the qualifications of the City’s Superintendent of Schools (Paul Vallas) to hold his position, due to a failure to have the appropriate certification for a Connecticut school superintendent.  Vallas came to the…

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