Election Section

Conn. court rules small companies can fire pregnant employees

By Matt Sedensky The Associated Press
Thursday June 27, 2002

HARTFORD, Conn. — The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that small companies can fire pregnant employees without violating the state’s ban on gender discrimination. 

The court ruled in a 3-2 vote that a 1967 law exempts businesses that have fewer than three workers. 

“This state’s public policy against sex discrimination by private employers is not absolute,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority. “The legislature has carved out an exception to that policy for small employers.” 

The case involved Nicole Thibodeau, who was fired in 1998 by her employer, Design Group One, a tiny architectural firm in Chester. Her attorneys argued the firm violated her rights under the state Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on gender. 

The court’s decision is “very upsetting,” her attorney, Elaine Rubinson said. “I never thought they would do that,” she said. 

Rubinson said her client may appeal to the federal courts or state lawmakers. 

Michael O’Connell, a lawyer for Design One, said: “We don’t just willy-nilly change it on a whim because of a particular case.” 

The Connecticut Civil Liberties Union had said upholding her firing would leave tens of thousands of workers at small businesses in Connecticut without legal protection from discrimination. 

In the dissent, Justice Christine Vertefeuille wrote that because of the ruling “it is the public policy of this state to permit small employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of sex.”