Connecticut Employment Lawyer
Your employment is one of the most important matters in your life. When things go wrong at work—whether it be a demotion, discipline, termination, or simply being treated differently than other employees—it can be devastating to you and your family. As any Connecticut employment lawyer will tell you, pursuant to your rights under both Connecticut and federal law, employers are given quite a bit of leeway when making employment decisions. But there are limits and boundaries. You deserve to know those limits, and how to vindicate your rights if your employer crosses those lines.
This then begs the question of what are those limits? And how do you maintain a case against your employer if they improperly cross those lines? Both answers depend on the nature of your employment (i.e., whether you are an “at-will” employee versus a contract employee), and the specifics of your particular employment dispute. So if you are looking for a labor and employment lawyer attorney in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport, Fairfield or Norwalk, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced lawyer at Mark Sherman Law as soon as possible.
At-Will vs. Contractual Employment Agreements
Most Connecticut employees are “at-will,” meaning they may terminated at any time for any reason or no reason at all. In these situations, these types of employees can only bring a claim against their employers if the employer conduct violates Connecticut or federal law. The laws that govern at-will employments are contained in Connecticut statutes, regulations, and public policy rules crafted by our legislature and our courts. Those laws and rules break down generally into two main categories: (1) discrimination, and (2) retaliation against whistleblowers engaging in protected conduct. Each of these categories is explained in more detail below.
On the other hand, some jobs are governed in part or whole by a written or oral contract—such as when a boss promises you a certain salary, for a specific period time, with a guaranteed bonus. In those cases, an employer must not only follow the laws and regulations applicable to at-will employees, but also, they must stick to the terms and conditions of their verbal or written employment contract. When there is a contract, an employer cannot terminate or take adverse action against the employee unless it is provided for in the contract or if there is just cause to support the employer’s decision.
What If I’m Wrongfully Terminated or Demoted By My Employer?
How you go about legally pursuing your case depends on the nature of your employment (i.e. at-will v. contract), and the specifics of the termination or adverse action. Connecticut cases involving discrimination and sexual harassment must first be filed with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (the “CCHRO”), or the federal equivalent regulatory body, called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
For Connecticut retaliation and whistle-blowing cases, whether you must first file with the CHRO or EEOC will depend on the nature of the protected conduct that causes the retaliation. Those cases that are not required to be filed with the CCHRO or the EEOC, may be filed directly in Connecticut Superior Court or Federal District Court. Cases involving a violation of a contract term may also be filed directly in court, unless the contract requires that disputes be resolved in another forum or manner, such as, arbitration, grievance, or mediation.
As many of the top Connecticut employment lawyers would agree, regardless of whether you are an at-will or contract employee, an employer cannot discriminate against you or take adverse action against you because of, among other things, your race, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability or physical disability.
Discrimination occurs when an employer engages in prohibited conduct which is motivated – at least in part – by one of the above-listed discriminatory reasons. Prohibited conduct could be any of the following:
- Committing an “adverse employment action” against the employee which affects the terms or conditions of the job, such as a pay cut, benefit reduction, suspension, or termination;
- Engaging in “disparate treatment” of the employee, which means treating the employee differently in the terms or conditions of the job, including, a decision to promote or receive a raise; or
- Facilitating a “hostile work environment” by harassing an employee to the point that the work environment becomes filled with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment for the employee.
So if you are a victim of any of these employment discrimination scenarios, do not be afraid to stand up for your rights. You may be entitled to compensation, which can include lost income, the value of lost benefits, the reinstatement of your job, emotional damages, attorney’s fees, interest, and in some cases, punitive damages to punish your employer for its wrongful conduct. So if you are a Connecticut resident or if your employer is located in Connecticut, you should schedule a consultation with a local employment lawyer to go over your options and your chances of recovering damages from your employer.
The CCHRO and EEOC Process
If your Connecticut employer violates anti-discrimination laws, then it is subject to the CCHRO’s jurisdiction. The CCHRO is a Connecticut agency whose mission is, among other things, to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Connecticut law allows the CCHRO to enforce anti-discrimination laws by passing rules and regulations that employers must abide by. To get a discrimination case started, an employee must first file a complaint with the CCHRO before filing one in court. The federal counterpart to the CCHRO – the EEOC — has similar rules and procedures.
A complaint filed with the CCHRO must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act. The CCHRO will then conduct a merit assessment review to determine whether your Connecticut discrimination or sexual harassment case may go forward. If the CCHRO determines the complaint has merit, then it will appoint an investigator to look closer into the facts and circumstances of your case and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred in your case.
If reasonable cause is found but you and your employer cannot come to an agreement, a CCHRO Human Rights Referee will decide the case after a public hearing and trial. If the Human Rights Referee rules that discrimination occurred, then they will order the discrimination to cease as well possibly order that you be made whole. This could mean being awarded job reinstatement, back pay, and recovering lost benefits.
While the CCHRO forum is helpful to aggrieved employees, it has some limitations, including the type of relief you may obtain. Because of this, aggrieved employees may seek to move their claim to Connecticut state or federal court, which requires obtaining a release from the CCHRO. A release may be obtained in various situations, including when both the employer and employee jointly request it before 280 days have passed, or if the employee requests it after 280 days have passed and the case is still pending.
Which forum is best suited for your case? As the best employment and labor lawyers in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan will tell you, the answer depends on many factors, such as, the nature of the discrimination, who the employer is, and the nature of the relief you seek. What we do recommend is that you contact a top Connecticut employment lawyer to find out more about which forum is best for your case.
The Connecticut Whistleblowing Retaliation Laws for Engaging in Protected Conduct
According to Connecticut’s Whistleblowing / Whistleblower law, CGS 31-51q, in any Connecticut employment relationship, it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you for engaging in certain whistleblowing conduct which the law deems “protected.” Protected conduct in this context includes: (1) speaking out against, or opposing, discriminatory practices, (2) exercising your rights under anti-discrimination laws, (3) “whistleblowing activity”, i.e., reporting potentially illegal conduct to the authorities, and (4) exercising your First Amendment free speech rights by speaking about matters which are of significant concern to the public, such as, activity that is unsafe, illegal, or against the interests of the greater public good. Additionally, under another subsection of the Connecticut Whistleblowing Law, CGS 31-51m, an employer may not retaliate against you for reporting any suspected misconduct of the employer to a public agency or authority (like the police, Office of the Attorney General, Securities Exchange Commission or IRS).
Retaliation may come in the form of adverse employment actions, disparate treatment, or hostile work environment. So if you are a victim of whistleblower retaliation in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, or New Canaan, you should call a top Connecticut whistleblower lawyer to learn what your options are and how to best protect yourself and your rights.
Arbitration and Other Alternative Dispute Resolution Forums
In employment disputes that are governed by a written or verbal contract, the way in which a dispute is resolved may be specified in the employment contract itself. If that is the case, then the employee must usually exhaust that procedure first before filing a court case against the employer.
Dispute resolution procedures that are typically found in employment contracts include arbitrations, grievances, and mediations. Arbitrations are binding like trials, but are not before a judge or jury, and are not usually appealable. Instead, an arbitration case is presented to one to three arbitrators who decide your case. The process is generally less formal than a court proceeding, is confidential and not open to the public, and also tends to be quicker and cheaper than going to court. Grievances are procedures for presenting and resolving a dispute internally within the organization itself. Mediations, on the other hand, are not binding and involve presenting both sides of a dispute to a neutral third party, who works toward having the parties reach an agreed upon resolution to the dispute.
Is your case required to go through an alternative dispute resolution process? Even if you have the option to file directly in court, is your case more appropriate for one of these formats and approaches? The answer depends on many factors, such as the nature of the case, the employer’s willingness to settle, how quickly you want your case resolved, and costs. Thus, if you are considering arbitration or mediation, contact a Connecticut arbitration lawyer to find out more about which forum is best for your case.
Hiring a Connecticut Employment Attorney
Getting wrongfully fired or terminated by your employer can occur when you least expect it, yet this wrongful conduct takes place within Connecticut businesses and agencies across the state. Regardless of the nature of your employment issue, it is important to contact an experienced Connecticut employment lawyer to fully understand and appreciate your rights, and help you navigate through the rough terrain of employment law.
One thing is for certain in these wrongful termination, discrimination and harassment cases: you can be sure your employer will have an attorney. You should have one too. So if you are looking for a labor, employment and discrimination lawyer in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Westport, Wilton, Weston, Fairfield, and Bridgeport, contact the Mark Sherman Law labor and employment law team today. The lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have handled an array of sensitive and serious cases involving employment discrimination, employment retaliation, breach of employment contract, and whistleblowing, and have achieved big money results through settlements or verdicts after trial for many honest, hard-working employees who were taken advantage of and misled by their employers. So do not wait any longer.