WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS UNDER CONNECTICUT LAW
Connecticut, like many other states, has enacted a statute that protects an employee from adverse employment action as a result of reporting certain violations of state or federal laws by his or her employer. Known as “The Whistleblower Statute,” Connecticut General Statutes 31-51m provides that “no employer shall discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize any employee because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the employee, reports, verbally or in writing, a violation or a suspected violation of any state or federal law or regulation or any municipal ordinance or regulation to a public body, or because an employee is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by that public body, or a court action.” When an employee has been discharged, disciplined or otherwise penalized by his or her employer as a result of having reported a violation that falls within the parameters of the statute, the employee may file a claim against the employer for damages as a result of the adverse employment action.
In order to prevail on the claim, the employee must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the discharge, discipline or other adverse action taken by the employer was in retaliation for the reporting of the employer’s conduct to the appropriate agency. In order to prove retaliation, the employee needs to show that the reporting of the violation by the employer was a “motivating factor” in the adverse employment action. That is, even if there were other factors that were relied upon by the employer in the decision to discharge, discipline or take other action against the employee, if the reporting of the violation was a factor that made a difference in the employer’s decision, that is sufficient to establish legal liability under the whistleblower statute.
Often, in retaliation claims employers present evidence of other conduct they claim was the motivating factor for the adverse employment action, and it is rarely the case where there is direct evidence to connect the adverse employment action to the reporting of a violation. The employee’s burden is not to prove that reporting the violation was the sole or even the principal reason for the action as long as there is evidence, direct or circumstantial, that reporting of the violation was a determinative influence in the adverse employment action taken. The ultimate decision is made by a jury, taking into consideration all of the evidence presented during the trial, and drawing reasonable inferences from that evidence to determine if the employer’s stated reasons are worthy of belief, or if they are merely a pretext for retaliating against an employee who decided to blow the whistle.
If you have suffered an adverse employment action, you should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in employment law to determine if your legal rights were violated.