It’s unconstitutional, said the state’s chief legal officer, but a proposal to place a gag order on Connecticut employers may be resurfacing in the legislature.
Two years ago, a “captive audience” proposal—blocking employer-employee communications in the workplace—made it as far as passage by the House before Attorney General George Jepsen threw cold water on the bill.
Jepsen said it was unconstitutional because it was preempted by federal law.
Yet this year’s Labor Committee recently signaled it may try again when it listed a “captive audience” title on an agenda. No description of the proposal has yet been seen, but the title should set off alarms.
While the trend for years has been to increase communications between employers and their employees, this type of proposal would actually drive a wedge between them.
The proposal usually shuts down much of what an employer can talk about with their employees in regular workplace meetings. For example, the last captive audience proposal restricted “political” discussions—with “politics” so broadly defined that almost any topic would have been considered off-limits. This would include issues critical to the effective management and operation of a business.
And under the threat of severe legal and financial penalties, an employer’s ability to communicate—particularly in opposition to the potential unionization of the workforce--would be effectively silenced.
Before this flawed concept goes any further, lawmakers should heed the attorney general’s warnings.
Beyond that, legislators should also remember that Governor Malloy said the legislature’s “core guiding principle” this year must be job creation. What’s more, the state has committed a tremendous amount of effort and resources to attract new job-creating businesses and industries to the state, and retain the ones we already have.
CBIA strongly opposes captive audience measures and urges the Labor Committee to pursue proposals that will help attract businesses to the state.