Parsons v. United Technologies Corp

In Parsons v. United Technologies Corp., 243 Conn. 66, 700 A.2d 655 (1997), the Court revisited the public policy limitation on the employment-at-will doctrine. In Parsons, the plaintiff was an at-will employee for the defendant corporation, which was engaged in the business of manufacturing, distributing and servicing helicopters. The plaintiff worked as an instructor of aircraft maintenance. After several years of employment, the defendant assigned the plaintiff to train several members of a Bahrain helicopter crew, which would require him to reside at a Bahrain military base. Shortly before his scheduled assignment, the United States Department of State issued a travel advisory that counseled against all nonessential travel to Bahrain due to military activity in the Persian Gulf. The plaintiff then notified the defendant that he would not travel to Bahrain because of the perceived threat to his health, safety and welfare. The defendant terminated the plaintiff's employment within two hours of receiving his refusal. The plaintiff thereafter brought an action for wrongful discharge, claiming that his termination for refusal to travel to Bahrain violated Connecticut public policy requiring an employer to provide its employees with a reasonably safe workplace. The plaintiff relied on several state statutes regulating workplace safety. The Court determined that the statutory provisions cited by the plaintiff "reflected a broad legislative concern for the physical welfare and safety of Connecticut employees. Consequently, we are persuaded that the mandate of public policy that these statutes embody gives a Connecticut employee a cause of action for wrongful discharge against an employer transacting business in Connecticut if the employee is discharged for refusing to work under conditions that pose a substantial risk of death, disease or serious physical harm and that are not contemplated within the scope of the employee's duties." Id., 80.