An Explanation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
by Conor J. McLaughlin, Quinnipiac University School of Law, J.D. Candidate May 2017
The employer-employee relationship is paramount to a successful business and workplace. Generally, this relationship yields mutually beneficial rewards for bosses and workers alike. Yet, there are times when this relationship can reach an impasse, whereby one party can no longer tolerate the conditions or demands of the other. Connecticut’s solution to this is simple, and set forth in the at-will employment doctrine. In law, at will employment is the general agreement adopted by both employers and employees, and controls the confines of the relationship unless a contract or other agreement state otherwise. The result is an employment contract which, at any time, and for most any reason, either party can terminate the employment. In theory, such a relationship is meant to benefit both parties. At-will employment gives an employee the freedom to pursue a more lucrative employment option should the opportunity present itself, while allowing an employer to determine which employees may be most beneficial to their enterprise.
However, there are situations where the employer-employee relationship proves unfairly detrimental. Connecticut lawmakers implemented the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, which acts to legally prohibit an abusive exploitation of Connecticut’s standard mode of employment. Any employer who refuses to hire or terminates an employee due to an individual’s “race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness. This prohibition applies to all employers, employment agencies, and labor unions. It further prohibits employees in the aiding or coercion of any such act. The act further prohibits the discrimination of woman based on sex, pregnancy or familial obligations. This covers a woman’s home life, family, medical choices, as well as other relationships so long as they are not proven to interfere with a bona fide occupational qualification or need of the employer. Should any of these conditions be proven, an employer will be liable for wrongful termination regardless of an original at-will employment agreement.
While the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act is extensive in its protection of employees from discrimination, there are some applicable exceptions that employees may want to be aware of. As the statute states: “purpose of statute is to eliminate discrimination in employment for specified reasons, and it is only within these prescribed reasons that the statute operates.” The statute is not intended to protect individuals from mandated retirement, and specifically excludes individuals over the age of 65 from its intended scope. In addition, the act is not applicable to a business that employs less than three employees: “Because Fair Employment Practices Act clearly expresses a public policy determination by legislature that employers with fewer than three employees shall be exempt from liability for discrimination on the basis of sex, including pregnancy-related discrimination, a common-law claim for wrongful discharge on the basis of pregnancy will not lie against such employers.”
If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.
Source: Connecticut General Statute § 46a-60
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