Champions for Change: Small Businesses Push Back on Gag Order 

03.16.2022
Small Business

Connecticut small businesses are struggling with the pandemic, inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, the labor shortage—and now, yet another legislative attempt to suppress workplace communications.

“It’s essentially a gag order on our businesses,” says Doug Johnson, president of Marion Manufacturing in Cheshire. “You can’t sugar coat it, that’s what it is.”

SB 163 restricts an employer’s ability to discuss “political matters” in the workplace, allowing employees to leave any meeting they feel is “political.”

The legislation’s language mirrors that of bills from previous years, all of which failed—primarily because of legal opinions that they preempted federal law governing workplace communications.

Chris Ulbrich, CEO of Ulbrich Stainless Steel and Special Metals in North Haven, said the bill’s definition of “political matters” is too broad, covering legislation, regulations, and participation in civic and community organizations.

“This is another hindrance to doing business in Connecticut.”

Marion Manufacturing’s Doug Johnson

“I think it hurts the employees not being able to hear what is going on in a company around benefits or business or what’s needed,” Ulbrich said.

If SB 163 passes, he said Connecticut employers will never be able to have honest workplace conversations. 

Tariq Islam, vice president of AI Engineers in Middletown, said open workplace communication is crucial to running a business.

“We have to have truth in the room,” Islam said. “We need to be able to speak our minds, in a respectful manner.”

“An informed workforce is the most effective workforce you can have, and this is another hindrance to doing business in Connecticut,” added Johnson. 

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