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Pending Legislation Would Extend Whistleblower Protections for Employees

State representatives out of the 95th and 93rd districts have proposed Senate Bill No. 263 which would extend the whistleblower protections afforded to employees who report violations of law and other abuses.  Under the current law, Connecticut General Statutes § 31-51m, an employer may not penalize any employee because the employee reports a violation or suspected violation of law to a public body, participates in an investigation by a public body, or reports child abuse or neglect.  Additionally, as the law stands now, no municipal employer may discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize any employee because the employee reports to a public body unethical practices, mismanagement, or abuse of authority by his or her employer.

The new legislation would extend the whistleblower protections to employees who make internal complaints of violation of law to a supervisor or manager of the employer or who participate in internal investigations of the same.  Curiously, the bill does not extend the same protection to municipal employees who make internal complaints of unethical practices, mismanagement, or abuse of authority.

The bill would also double the time within which an employee may file a civil action from 90 to 180 days, and expand the available remedies to include noneconomic damages, the removal of any discipline or penalty imposed upon the employee, and “future economic damages attributable to a reduction in the employee’s wages in the event that reinstatement of the employee’s previous job is not feasible or is impracticable.”

Superior Court cases have come down both ways on whether the existing law applies to internal complaints even absent the passage of the pending bill.  Employers, then, are advised to investigate all employee complaints made in good faith, both in the event that the existing whistleblower law is again interpreted to include internal complaints, and as a matter of best practices.  Our labor and employment law team is experienced with assisting employers with internal investigations, including whistleblowing and whistleblowing retaliation claims.