Connecticut’s New Captive Audience Meeting Ban to go into Effect on July 1st – But Is It Legal?
Posted on May 27, 2022 on Labor Management Issues, Legal Updates, Legislative Updates by
By Robert G. Brody and Mark J. Taglia
May 20, 2022
In a major victory for Connecticut labor unions, Governor Ned Lamont signed into law last week a bill which prohibits employers from holding “captive audience” meetings. Labor unions claim such meetings are used to discourage workers from unionizing. The question now is will this state law be pre-empted by the federal National Labor Relations Act?
With the passage of The Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings, Connecticut becomes just the second state (Oregon being the first) to implement a captive audience law. The law, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2022, will prohibit employers from requiring employees to attend/remain at meetings where an employer expresses political and/or religious views (click here to view text of new bill).
After last week’s bill signing, Connecticut’s AFL-CIO President, Ed Hawthorne, released the following statement in support of the Governor’s actions:
“Far too often, when workers attempt to form a union, management forces workers to attend closed-door captive audience meetings where they frequently threaten business closures, wage cuts, layoffs, and more.” He continued, “workers will no longer be forced to attend meetings about their employer’s position on politics, religion, or union organizing.”
Despite reaping praise from some, the bill was not lauded by all sides. The CEO of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Chris DiPentima, claims the bill is illegal (since it is pre-empted by federal law) and hostile towards employers asserting it is an “employer gag order.” DiPentima also explains the new law will prohibit employers from engaging in necessary and proper workplace meetings because it permits employees to leave a meeting whenever they feel “political matters” are being discussed.
To highlight his concern, DiPentima cited as an example in his opposition letter to the Governor, “employees could refuse to attend workplace meetings because they are offensive to one’s personal political or religious views …which could impact discussions and training about diversity, equity and inclusion, LGBTQ issues, vaccination policy, or maintaining workplace safety.”
Under current law, we believe the law will be found pre-empted by the National Labor Relations Act. But, if the NLRB changes its position and finds captive audience meetings illegal, everything will change. The NLRB’s General Counsel would love to make this change, but whether she will succeed is another question. She recently published a memo advocating her position that these meetings are illegal (click here to read memo). We’ll keep you informed,
Brody and Associates regularly advises management on all issues involving unions, staying union-free, complying with the newest decision issued by the NLRB, and training management on how to deal with all these challenges. If we can be of any assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-454-0560.