Gagging order for employers: same bill, two divergent opinions of the GA |

State Attorney General William Tong backs the controversial employer gag order bill that largely mirrors legislation his predecessor said may have preempted federal law.

Tong testified before the legislature’s Judiciary Committee on March 4, noting his “strong support” for SB 163, the latest in a long line of bills suppressing workplace communications.

Attorney General William Tong spoke at a Connecticut AFL-CIO press conference March 4 supporting the employer gag order bill.

The language of SB 163 largely mirrors that of its 2018 cousin, which drew a warning from Tong’s predecessor, George Jepsen, that it was interfering with federal law.

“HB 5473’s attempt to bar mandatory meetings for such communications appears to fall within the area that Congress intends to be exempt from regulation, and thus a court would likely find it preempted,” Jepsen wrote to lawmakers in 2018.

The letter echoed a notice he issued in 2011 for a new legislative attempt to limit employer-employee interactions.

Same invoice, different year

2018: HB 5473 (“pre-empted by federal law”) 2022: SB 163
“Political matters” means matters relating to: elections to political office, political parties, legislation, regulations and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal organization or trade union; ““Political Matters” means matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, legislation, regulations and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal or union;”
“‘Religious matters’ means matters relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.” “‘Religious matters’ means matters relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.”
“…attending an Employer-sponsored meeting with the Employer or its agent, representative or delegate, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the views of the Employer on political or religious matters…” “…attending an Employer-sponsored meeting with the Employer or its agent, representative, or delegate, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the views of the Employer regarding religious or political matters…”

Legal challenges

Backed by unions, state lawmakers have pushed these so-called captive hearing bills for more than a decade.

All have foundered, often gaining support in some committees before failing to gain traction in the House or Senate, primarily due to concerns that bills may not withstand legal challenges.

AABC’s John Blair said SB 163 restricts an employer’s ability to discuss “political matters” in the workplace, allowing employees to walk out of any meeting they deem “political”.

“The definition of ‘policy matters’ is too broad and problematic – it includes the terms ‘legislation’ and ‘regulation’ which would prevent employers from communicating on critical employment issues,” he told members of the Judiciary Committee on March 4.

“If the proposal were law during the pandemic, it would have restricted employers from disclosing the wide range of employment-related executive orders, laws and regulations associated with the government’s handling of the public health crisis.

“The bill ultimately imposes a gag order on employers, leaving employees in the dark about matters that directly affect them.

“This not only dictates how employers interact with employees, it reflects an adversarial attitude toward Connecticut businesses.”

Broad opposition

Numerous employers and professional organizations have also submitted testimony opposing SB 163, including:

  • Able Coil & Electronics in Bolton
  • Big Boy’s Toys LLC in Pomfret
  • Carpin Manufacturing Inc. in Waterbury
  • Manchester Terracotta Furniture Industries
  • Connecticut Hospital Association
  • Fuss & O’Neill in Manchester
  • Greater New Haven and Quinnipiac Chambers of Commerce
  • United Parcel Service based in Hartford
  • InCord in Colchester
  • Connecticut Insurance Association
  • Lux Bond & Green, based in West Hartford, with additional locations in Glastonbury, Westport and Mohegan Sun
  • NFIB
  • PTA Plastics in Oxford
  • Schwerdtle Inc. in Bridgeport
  • Edward Segal at Thomaston
  • Stencil Ease in Old Saybrook
  • Waterbury Regional Chamber

Garrett Sheehan, president and CEO of Greater New Haven and Quinnipiac Chambers, said “the bill has the potential to limit critical information between employers and employees related to business operations and employee involvement. employer at civic or community events”.

“The magnitude of this bill will significantly affect business operations because employees may decide that critical meetings, such as diversity training, are political matters,” he said.

NFIB State Director Andy Markowski told the committee that SB 163 could negatively impact small business owners and their employees because of its “ambiguous” and “overbroad” language. “.

“Effective compliance with a law such as SB 163 would be virtually impossible for many small, closed businesses, thereby exposing the business to unnecessary and potentially costly complaints and frivolous litigation,” he said.


For more information, contact AABC’s John Blair (860.244.1921).

Comments are closed.