Young v. City of Bridgeport
Connecticut General Statutes §31-51m and §31-51q establish causes of action for retaliatory or wrongful discharge, granting standing to employees who seek redress from employers for conduct enumerated in those sections. Cecil Young was an elected city sheriff for the city of Bridgeport. City sheriffs do not have any affirmative duties or responsibilities, designated office space or scheduled work hours. A city sheriff may serve process on behalf of the city, private entities or private individuals. For the first 11 of his 18 years as city sheriff, Young did not serve process for the city. In 2000, he began serving process for the city and was paid a flat rate for each summons or process served. Young continued to serve process for others. Beginning in April 2006, the city no longer gave Young process to serve. He filed a complaint against the city alleging claims of retaliatory discharge in violation of C.G.S. §31-51m and §31-51q. A trial to the court was held at which Young testified that he made numerous complaints about the city to public bodies for suspected violations of state and local laws and regulations including political corruption and public health violations. A city attorney, Young testified, asked him to abandon his claims and when he refused, he no longer received process to serve for the city. After the plaintiff rested, the trial court granted the city's motion for a directed verdict finding that the plaintiff was not a city employee but an independent contractor and, therefore, he did not come under the protection of C.G.S. §31-51m and §31-51q. The plaintiff appealed. Finding that the motion for a directed verdict was procedurally improper because there was no jury, the Appellate Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the trial court with direction to render judgment dismissing the action. The evidence presented was sufficient to support the trial court's finding that the plaintiff was an independent contractor and not an employee of the defendant. The factual finding was not clearly erroneous. It deprived the plaintiff of standing to maintain causes of action under C.G.S. §31-51m and §31-51q. Thus, the court should have dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction due to a lack of standing.