In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued an important decision protecting the rights of employees to speak out against wrongdoing in the workplace. The case, Trusz v. UBS Realty Investors LLC, 319 Conn. 175 (2015), involved Richard Trusz, a former manager director at UBS who Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau represented from 2008 until 2016, and his former employer.
In considering the rights of employees to speak out against wrongdoing, or dangerous or illegal activities, under the Connecticut Constitution, the Connecticut Supreme Court rejected an earlier decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which eliminated the protection for employees under the First Amendment who complained about matters of public concern in the workplace if the employee’s complaint was made pursuant to his or her official job duties. In refusing to apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment to the Connecticut Constitution, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the Connecticut Constitution is broader and more protective of speech on all subjects than the First Amendment.
As a result of this decision, both public and private employees in Connecticut are protected from retaliation by their employers because of their opposition to official dishonesty, deliberately unconstitutional conduct, serious wrongdoing, or threats to health and safety, even if the employee is speaking pursuant to his or her official job duties. This was the first decision by a state Supreme Court refusing to apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrower interpretation of the First Amendment to a state constitution.
In addition to the Trusz decision, Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau has been involved in several other cases before the Connecticut Supreme Court which have served to protect employee rights, including Craine v. Trinity College, 259 Conn. 625 (2002), in which the Supreme Court held that procedural irregularities can support an inference of discrimination and that failing to follow a college’s tenure manual can constitute a breach of contract, and Jacobs v. General Electric Co., 275 Conn. 395 (2005), in which the Connecticut Supreme Court decided that an employee is only required to prove that a discriminatory reason was “a motivating factor” in the termination decision, and that an employee is not required to prove both that a discriminatory reason played a role in the termination decision, and that the employer’s asserted reason for terminating an employee was false.
Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau has also obtained favorable decisions for their clients at the federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, such as Hubbard v. Total Communications, Inc., 347 Fed. Appx. 679 (2d Cir. 2009), and Berube v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc., 348 Fed. Appx. 684 (2d Cir. 2009).
Here is a link to the decision:
Connecticut Law Tribune:
Hartford Courant: http://www.courant.com/business/hc-victory-for-trusz-vs-ubs-20151005-story.html
Associated Press: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/6c973b3c4d244b1cae73965ea243f932/court-says-fired-ubs-worker-had-right-free-speech
Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2015/10/05/conn-high-court-private-and-public-workers-have-broad-speech-rights/