WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of business groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut challenging a Connecticut law that bans business owners from discussing relevant workplace issues with their employees. The Chamber argues that the law, which limits employer free speech, is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and violates the First Amendment.
The Chamber is joined by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Retail Federation, Connecticut Retail Merchants Association, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, National Association of Home Builders, Associated Builders and Contractors, and Associated Builders and Contractors of Connecticut.
“Connecticut’s law is at odds with well-established First Amendment and National Labor Relations Act precedents regarding the free speech rights of employers,” said Glenn Spencer, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Employment Policy Division. “Over a decade ago, the Chamber sued the state of California over a similar law and won in the U.S. Supreme Court. We’ll continue to defend an employer’s right to share opinions with employees so that employees can make informed decisions. And we’ll continue to stand up for small businesses that are particularly impacted by the law’s vagueness and extreme breadth.”
Connecticut’s law, which went into effect July 1, 2022, restricts employers from communicating with their employees about “political matters” and then broadly defines what constitutes a “political matter” to include, among other things, legislative or regulatory proposals and the decision to join a labor organization. In effect, the law threatens employers with liability for speaking with their employees on a range of important workplace issues, such as whether pending laws or regulations, like those concerning energy, taxes, or public transportation, are good or bad for the company. The law is so broad, small business owners could now face potentially expensive and time-consuming complaints and litigation for simply communicating openly with their employees.
Among other arguments, the U.S. Chamber and co-plaintiffs contend that the law conflicts with employer free speech rights guaranteed by the NLRA and infringes on the free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. By so restricting an employer’s speech, Connecticut’s law suppresses important communications and hinders the ability of workers to make informed decisions about critical issues impacting the workplace.
“The Connecticut legislation enacted this year is an unnecessary and unconstitutional infringement on the rights of employers to communicate with employees in the workplace,” said Chris DiPentima, president and CEO of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. “The decision to file this lawsuit was not taken lightly—however, we must protect the constitutional rights of Connecticut employers, particularly small businesses, to manage their workplaces free from government overreach.”
The full complaint can be viewed here.