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3.14-5  Discharge in Violation of General Statutes § 31-51m, Whistleblower Statute

Revised to January 1, 2008

The plaintiff alleges that (he/she) was (discharged / disciplined / penalized) by the defendant because (he/she) reported violation of (state law or regulation / federal law or regulation / municipal ordinance or regulation) to <name>, a public body.  Connecticut General Statutes § 31-51m provides:

"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."

In order to prevail on (his/her) claim under § 31-51m, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that (his/her) (discharge / discipline / penalty) was in retaliation for (his/her) report to <name>, a public body.  Retaliation is proved in this case if the plaintiff demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that (his/her) report was a motivating factor for (his/her) (discharge /discipline / penalty) even though other factors also motivated the defendant's decision to (discharge /discipline / take adverse action) against (him/her).  A "motivating factor" is a factor that made a difference in the defendant's decision. 

The plaintiff does not have to prove that (his/her) report to <public body> was the sole or even the principal reason for the decision, as long as (he/she) proves that (his/her) report was a determinative influence in the decision.  (He/She) may prove retaliation directly by proving that (his/her) report to <public body> more likely motivated the defendant's action in (discharging / disciplining / penalizing) (him/her) or indirectly by proving that the reason[s] given by the defendant for the (discharge / discipline / penalty) (was/were) unworthy of belief.  If you find that the defendant's stated reasons are not credible, then considering all the circumstances you may infer, although you are not required to infer, that the plaintiff's report to <public body> was a motivating factor in the defendant's decision, even if it may not have been the only motivating factor.

It is not your role to second-guess the defendant's business judgment.  The fact that an employer's decision was incorrect, unfair, unwise or capricious, or even based on personal favoritism or animosity is irrelevant, as long as the plaintiff's reporting of the violation was not a motivating factor that made a difference in its decisions.

Authority

Jacobs v. General Electric, 275 Conn. 395, 400, 401 (2005); Board of Education v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 266 Conn. 492 (2003); Arnone v. Enfield, 79 Conn. App. 501, 507 (2003).

Notes

Where an employee has a statutory remedy, i.e., an action under § 31-51m, (he/she) cannot bring a common-law wrongful discharge action.  See Burnham v. Karl & Gelb, P.C., 252 Conn. 153, 159-62 (2000); but see Fenner v. Hartford Courant Co., 77 Conn. App. 185, 194 (2003).
 


 

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