Legal Memorandum: Employee's Public Speech in CT

Issue: In Connecticut, can a speech given to the public interfere with a working relationship with an employer?

Area of Law: Employee Law
Keywords: Public speech; Working relationship; Employee and the employer
Jurisdiction: Connecticut
Cited Cases: 982 F. Supp. 120; 483 U.S. 378; 461 U.S. 138; 249 Conn. 766; 56 Conn. App. 134; 685 A.2d 319; 52 F. Supp. 349; 734 A.2d 112; 239 Conn. 356; 618 A.2d 25; 224 Conn. 210; 741 A.2d 349
Cited Statutes: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q
Date: 05/01/2001

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q states:

Any employer, including the state . . . who subjects any employee to discipline or discharge on account of the exercise . . . of rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution . . ., provided such activity does not substantially or materially interfere with the employee’s bona fide job performance or the working relationship between the employee and the employer, shall be liable to such employee for damages.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q (2000).  There are several unpublished Connecticut cases, which are of no precedential value, for the proposition that

In order to plead a violation of Section 31-51q, the plaintiff must allege: (1) that she was exercising rights protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution or by an equivalent provision of the Connecticut Constitution; (2) that she was fired "on account of" her exercise of such rights; and (3) that her exercise of first amendment or equivalent state constitutional rights did not substantially or materially interfere with her bona fide job performance or with her working relationship with her employer.

Citing Sherman v. Sedgwick James, Inc., 1997 WL 83714 (Conn. Super. Feb. 10, 1997); Jeffress v. Yale Univ., 1997 WL 566096 (Conn. Super. Aug. 28, 1997); Daley v. Aetna Life & Cas. Co., 1994 WL 422642 (Conn. Super. Aug. 3, 1994).  Lowe v. Amerigas, 52 F. Supp. 349, 359 (D. Conn. 1999), states that in order to demonstrate a violation of § 31-51q, a plaintiff must prove that […]

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