Lamont Ignores Veto Calls, Signs Employer Gag Order
Gov. Ned Lamont signed a controversial bill May 17 widely regarded as an unconstitutional attempt to restrict workplace communications and an infringement on employer free speech rights.
The governor ignored veto calls from more than 50 employers and business organizations.
In a May 2 letter to Lamont, those businesses and groups called SB 163 “an unnecessary and unconstitutional restriction on employers’ free speech rights that will have negative unintended consequences.”
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima said the law, which takes effect July 1, 2022, does nothing to improve perceptions of the state’s business climate or drive economic recovery.
“Nothing in this bill says Connecticut is open for business,” he said.
“This bill was pushed by groups representing less than 10% of Connecticut’s population and 18% of the workforce.
“It does nothing to address the state’s 109,000 job openings, the declining labor force—our pandemic losses represent a stunning 41% of the U.S. decline—soaring inflation, or supply chain bottlenecks.”
SB 163 allows employees to walk out out of an employer-sponsored meeting if they believe religious or political matters are discussed.
The definition of “political matters” is overly broad and problematic—it includes the terms “legislation” and “regulation,” restricting employers from discussing critical employment issues.
DiPentima said the bill was clearly preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act and will not withstand legal challenges.
CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima noted that almost identical bills attracted written opinions in 2011 and 2018 from then Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen that “a court, if faced with the issue, would likely hold that such a provision is preempted.”
DiPentima also cited a 10-page, May 8, 2022 opinion written by Philip Miscimarra, an Obama administration appointee to the National Labor Relations Board who served from 2013 to 2017—including a period as chair—noting that the bill “is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.”
Miscimarra’s opinion also notes that the legislation “raises significant First Amendment concerns under the U.S. Constitution involving infringement on freedom of speech and religion.”
Oregon is the only other state in the country with a similar law, although that statute is the subject of litigation based on its preemption by the NLRA.
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