Whistleblower Retaliation Complaints: an Overview
As set forth in General Statutes § 4-61dd, any person having knowledge of corruption, unethical practices, violation of state laws or regulations, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or danger to the public safety occurring in any state department or agency or in any quasi-public agency may disclose such matter to the state Auditors of Public Accounts. Any person having knowledge of corruption, violation of state or federal laws or regulations, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or danger to the public safety occurring in any large state contract may also disclose such matter to the Auditors of Public Accounts. A person disclosing such information is known in lay terms as a "whistleblower." A whistleblower should feel free to report such information without fear of retaliation.
According to the statute, no state officer or employee, no quasi-public agency officer or employee, no officer or employee of a large state contractor, and no appointing authority may take or threaten to take any personnel action against a whistleblower who is an employee of the state, of a quasi-public agency, or of a large state contractor in retaliation for disclosing such information. The statute specifically protects those whistleblowers who have disclosed such information (1) to any employee of the Auditors or of the Attorney General; (2) to an employee of the state or quasi-public agency that employs the person who retaliated or threatened retaliation; (3) to an employee of a state agency pursuant to a mandated reporter statute; or, (4) in the case of a large state contractor, to an employee of the contracting state agency concerning information about a large state contract.
In accordance with the statute, an employee who believes he or she is the subject of retaliation for "whistleblowing" may file a "whistleblower retaliation complaint" with the Chief Human Rights Referee at the CHRO's Office of Public Hearings not later than ninety (90) days after the employee learns of the specific incident giving rise to the claim (i.e., the personnel action threatened or taken against him/her).
The complaint will then be assigned to one of the Human Rights Referees. If the Referee determines that a violation of the statute occurred, the Referee may award the employee "reinstatement to the employee's former position, back pay and reestablishment of any employee benefits to which the employee would otherwise have been eligible if such violation had not occurred, reasonable attorneys' fees, and any other damages." Any party may appeal the Referee's decision in accordance with the provisions of §4-183 of the General Statutes.
Section 4-61dd also sets forth alternative processes for disposing of allegations of retaliation filed by whistleblowers. A whistleblowing employee who is facing or threatened with retaliatory personnel actions may opt to file a complaint with the Employees' Review Board under §5-202 or, in the case of an employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement, in accordance with contractual procedures. An employee of a large state contractor, after exhausting all administrative remedies, may choose to pursue a civil action in Superior Court. It is important to note that a whistleblowing employee facing or threatened with retaliation may choose only this Office of Public Hearings or one of these alternatives for relief. He or she cannot bring an action in more than one forum.
The statute creates a rebuttable presumption that any personnel action taken or threatened against a whistleblowing employee is deemed retaliatory if it occurs not later than one year after the whistleblower's disclosure to the Auditors of Public Accounts or to the Attorney General.
Complaints should be filed with the Chief Human Rights Referee at the Office of Public Hearings, 450 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, CT 06103. A complaint form may be downloaded ( 3. below) or may be obtained from the Office of Public Hearings. To obtain a complaint form or any additional information about §4-61dd hearings, please call 860-418-8770.
NOTE: The text of the whistleblower protection statute (General Statutes §4-61dd) and the pertinent regulations, and additional information are available via the links at the bottom of this section.
NOTE: This overview is not intended to serve as, or in lieu of, legal advice. The CHRO, the Office of Public Hearings, and the Referees cannot give legal advice. A person considering filing a whistleblower retaliation complaint may wish to consult with an attorney.
NOTE: Although the Referees also preside over CHRO discrimination cases, whistleblower retaliation cases are independent of CHRO jurisdiction and are not investigated by CHRO.
In addition, see:
- Whistleblower Retaliation Statute
- Whistleblower Retaliation Regulations
- Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint Form (PDF)
- Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint Form (.DOC)
- Whistleblower Retaliation Decisions, Rulings and Index
- Uniform Administrative Procedure Act ( General Statutes §§ 4-166 through 4-189g)