Connecticut Bans Corporate Meetings About Politics – Employee Rights/ Labour Relations

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Effective as of July 1, 2022, Connecticut law purports to grant
an employee a statutory cause of action against his or her employer
if the employer “subjects or threatens to subject any employee
to discipline or discharge” because the employee refuses to
“attend an employer sponsored meeting … the primary purpose
of which is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning
religious or political matters” or refuses to “listen to
speech or view communications, the primary purpose of which is to
communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or
political matters.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q, as amended by S. B. 163 (2022).
The new law, Senate Bill 163, defines both “political
matters” and “[r]eligious matters” expansively,
covering “all matters relating to elections for political
office, political parties, legislation, regulation, and the
decision to join or support any political party or political civic,
community, fraternal or labor organization” and “matters
relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to
join or support any religious organization or association.”
Id. Senate Bill 163 expands an existing Connecticut law
that gave an employee a statutory cause of action if they were
disciplined or discharged because they exercised their rights to
free speech or free exercise of religion under the First Amendment
to the United State Constitution or its analogues in the
Constitution of the State of Connecticut. Id.

Prior to Senate Bill 163’s passage, similar bills targeting
mandatory employer-sponsored meetings about union organizing had
previously been considered by Connecticut’s legislature in 2011
and 2018, but then-Attorney General George Jepsen advised the
legislature on both occasions that state prohibitions against
mandatory employer-sponsored meetings were preempted by the federal
National Labor Relations Act. Mark Pazniokas, Prague: On advice
from A.G., Senate gives up on ‘captive audience’ bill
passed by House
, The Connecticut Mirror (May 27, 2011) (

State of Connecticut Attorney General, 2018-02 Formal
(Apr. 26, 2018) (

The path to Senate Bill 163’s passage was cleared in 2019, when
new Attorney General William Tong advised that laws might avoid
federal preemption if they focused on the First Amendment rather
than labor relations, and sought to protect employees’
“right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom
of association” including “the right not to be required
to listen to speech” rather than expressly seeking to regulate
or prohibit employers’ speech. State of Connecticut Attorney
General, 2019-03 Formal Opinion (May 17, 2019) (

Attorney General Tong’s formal
opinion notwithstanding, there are several open questions
surrounding the legality of Senate Bill 163. Courts may disagree
with Attorney General Tong’s narrower interpretation of the
scope of the National Labor Relations Act’s preemptive effect.
Courts may also need to determine whether they agree with Attorney
General Tong’s strong conception of a negative First Amendment
“right not to be required to listen to speech,” or Senate
Bill 163’s prohibition against requiring employee attendance at
any meeting with the “primary purpose” of communicating
an employer’s views on “religious or political
matters” intrudes upon the First Amendment rights of
employers. Until these questions are resolved, employers in
Connecticut should be aware that they may be exposing themselves to
liability if they discipline or threaten to discipline any employee
for failure to attend a meeting, view material, or listen to
material at which the employer discusses any political,
civic, or religious issues at any meaningful length.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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