STATE v. AFSCME COUNCIL 4, LOCAL 391, SC 18749

Judicial District of Hartford

 

Arbitration; Whether an Arbitration Award was Correctly Vacated on the Ground that it Violated the Public Policy Against Workplace Sexual Harassment. The plaintiff fired correctional officer Scott Gamache after Gamache allegedly engaged in an open pattern of sexual harassment in knowing violation of an administrative directive of the department of correction (department). In connection with Gamache's discharge, the defendant union filed a grievance against the plaintiff. The grievance was submitted to arbitration, and the arbitrator issued an award that reduced Gamache's dismissal to a one year suspension without pay or benefits. The plaintiff moved to vacate the arbitration award, and the defendant moved to confirm the award. In granting the motion to vacate and denying the motion to confirm, the trial court first determined that there was a well-defined and dominant public policy against workplace sexual harassment as established by General Statutes 46a-60 and the department's administrative directive 2.2. It then stated that although Gamache was aware of the department's zero tolerance policy proscribing sexual harassment, he repeatedly violated that policy over a long period of time. Moreover, it found that any discipline short of termination would be insufficient to uphold the important public policy against workplace sexual harassment. The defendant appealed to the Appellate Court (125 Conn. App. 408), which affirmed the trial court's judgment. The Appellate Court rejected the defendant's argument that 46a-60 was not relevant in this case because it only applies to the discriminatory practices of an employer and does not extend to the actions of an employee. It stated that the plain language of 46a-60 did not support such an interpretation and that the trial court properly held that the statute establishes a well-defined and dominant public policy against workplace sexual harassment. It also determined that Gamache's reinstatement as a correctional officer would frustrate that public policy and seriously undermine the plaintiff's responsibility to provide a sexually nonhostile work environment. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the trial court's judgment.