Groton v. United Steelworkers of America
In Groton v. United Steelworkers of America, 254 Conn. 35, 48, 757 A.2d 501 (2000), the employee had worked for the town as a weighmaster at the town landfill. Id. 254 Conn. at 37. His duties included selling landfill permits to residents. Id. He was responsible for accounting for the permits and for turning over the money he received from sales to the town. Id.
The employee was charged by the Groton police with two counts of larceny by embezzlement and one count of violating a town ordinance. Id. 254 Conn. at 37-38. Those charges arose out of allegations that the employee had sold permits and kept the proceeds of those sales for himself. Id. 254 Conn. at 38.
As part of a plea agreement, the state agreed to drop one of the larceny counts and the municipal ordinance count in exchange for the employee's plea of nolo contendere to the remaining larceny count. Id. The employee accepted the plea agreement. Id. The town discharged the employee on the basis of his larceny conviction. Id.
Thereafter, the defendant union filed a grievance on the employee's behalf, challenging the termination of his employment. Id. 254 Conn. at 39. The grievance was ultimately submitted to arbitration. Id. The arbitrator determined that the conviction did not establish just cause for termination. Id. 254 Conn. at 41. The town applied to the trial court to vacate the award. Id. 254 Conn. at 43.
The court rendered judgment vacating the award. Id. The defendants appealed, arguing that the court improperly applied the public policy exception to the general rule of deference regarding arbitrator's awards because the employee's conviction was based on a plea of nolo contendere and therefore that the conviction could not be used to establish that he had, in fact, embezzled from his employer or be given any other effect. Id.
The Court disagreed. It concluded that the award reinstating the employee "violated the clear public policy against embezzlement, and that this policy encompasses the policy that an employer may not be required to reinstate the employment of one who has been convicted of embezzlement of his employer's funds, whether that conviction follows a trial, a guilty plea, or a plea of nolo contendere." Id. 254 Conn. at 46-47.