On May 17, 2022, Governor Lamont signed Public Act No. 22-24, An Act Protecting Employee Freedom of Speech and Conscience. The law will go into effect on October 1, 2022.
The law amends Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q by making it illegal for employers to discipline or discharge, or threaten to discipline or discharge an employee for exercising free speech rights or for refusing to “attend an employer-sponsored meeting with the employer or its agent, representative or designee, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer's opinion concerning religious or political matters, or (B) listen to speech or view communications, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer's opinion concerning religious or political matters.” In other words, this bill prohibits a “captive audience” meeting.
Under this law, "political matters" means matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change regulation and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or labor organization; and “religious matters" means matters relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.
The law does not prohibit: “(1) An employer or its agent, representative or designee from communicating to its employees any information that the employer is required by law to communicate, but only to the extent of such legal requirement; (2) an employer or its agent, representative or designee from communicating to its employees any information that is necessary for such employees to perform their job duties; (3) an institution of higher education, or any agent, representative or designee of such institution, from meeting with or participating in any communications with its employees that are part of coursework, any symposia or an academic program at such institution; (4) casual conversations between employees or between an employee and an agent, representative or designee of an employer, provided participation in such conversations is not required; or (5) a requirement limited to the employer's managerial and supervisory employees.”
Notably, however, the Act also amends the type of damages available to an employee who prevails in a private right of action for an employer's violation of the law. The Act no longer allows punitive damages, and limits damages to “the full amount of gross loss of wages or compensation, with costs and such reasonable attorney's fees as may be allowed by the court.”
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