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Connecticut Extends Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Protections to Unpaid Interns

On June 22, 2015, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a new statute that extends workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation protection to unpaid interns. Historically, it was unclear whether an individual working as an unpaid intern was protected from workplace discrimination or harassment. As a result of the enactment of Public Act 15-56, on October 1, 2015, unpaid interns in Connecticut will be provided the same protections as employees covered by the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”).

Connecticut Public Policy Supports, and in Some Cases, Requires, Termination of Workplace Harassers

State of Connecticut v. AFSCME, Council 4, Local 391, No. 18749 (August 6, 2013): The Connecticut Supreme Court recently upheld the reversal of an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate an employee whose employment was terminated for sexually harassing a coworker. The court determined that the arbitrator’s ruling for reinstatement was a violation of “clear, well-defined, and dominant” public policy against sexual harassment in Connecticut—one of the few bases upon which a court may overturn an arbitration decision. The court, quoting a Connecticut appellate court case, noted that the relevant inquiry was whether the employee’s misconduct was “so egregious that it requires nothing less than termination of the [worker’s] employment so as not to violate public policy.” While this decision arose in the context of an employer challenging an arbitrator’s ruling for reinstatement of an employee under a collective bargaining agreement, the court’s decision could potentially have a greater impact given the broad language that the court used in the opinion.
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