A legal ruling or new regulation affects the workers at your company, so you gather them in a meeting to inform them of this potential impact on the company and their jobs.

For most employers, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.

But under SB 440, a bill being considered by the legislature's Judiciary Committee, an employer cannot require an employee to attend such a meeting—and can be held liable for damages for disciplining or dismissing a worker who refuses to attend.

CBIA's Louise DiCocco told the committee March 18 previous legal opinions from the state Attorney General's office warned that national labor law takes precedence over these so-called "captive audience" bills.

The Labor and Public Employees Committee approved a similar bill, SB 64, on a 9-5 party line vote March 14. CBIA also testified against that bill.

Preempted

"States are precluded from governing any areas of law covered by the [National Labor Relations Act], which includes restricting employers from communicating freely with their employees at staff meetings," DiCocco told the Judiciary Committee.

She reminded committee members that in April 2018, then-Attorney General George Jepsen, issued a formal opinion on this matter.

"He stated similar captive audience legislation was preempted by federal law and warned lawmakers about passing it," DiCocco said.

"States can impose things like worker safety protections and the minimum wage, but 'the exercise of traditional police powers is preempted when it traverses into those areas Congress has determined states should not be permitted to regulate.'"

SB 440 has other problems as well, she said, including that it unreasonably interferes with the employee-employer relationship.

Wrong Focus

It also:

  • Curtails discussions with employees about legislation or regulation that could impact their jobs
  • Encumbers communications in the workplace about issues vital to jobs, wages, and benefits when many companies are forced to make difficult decisions due to Connecticut’s slow economy
  • Inhibits an employer's ability to give their views on the impact collective bargaining would have on a business
  • Hinders corporate charitable, community, and social activities that benefit society at large.

"As a representative of the business community, I can tell you our members desperately want lawmakers to focus their energies on the fiscal issues facing the state so that businesses gain confidence of knowing we are on a sustainable path forward," DiCocco said.

"This proposal does not help achieve that end goal. I urge you to take no action on this bill."


For more information, contact CBIA's Louise DiCocco (860.244.1169) | @LouiseDiCocco