March 30, 2016
Christopher T. Parkin, with whom, on the brief, were Russell
J. Sweeting and Thomas W. Moyher, for the appellant
(defendant Sarah Puryear).
Angus Cole, for the appellee (named defendant).
Michael J. Rose, with whom, on the brief, was Cindy M.
Cieslak, for the appellee (defendant city of Shelton).
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald,
Espinosa and Robinson, Js. [*]
called upon to decide what test should be applied to
determine whether an unpaid volunteer is an
‘‘employee’’ for purposes of the
Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA), General
Statutes § 46a-51 et seq. More specifically, we must
decide whether a volunteer must satisfy the predominant
‘‘remuneration test’’ used to resolve
similar federal causes of action or Connecticut’s
common-law ‘‘right to control’’ test.
certified appeal arises out of a complaint filed with the
plaintiff, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities,
by Brenda Puryear (Brenda), on behalf of her then minor
daughter Sarah Puryear (Sarah). The complaint alleged that the
defendants, Echo Hose Ambulance and the city of Shelton, had
discriminated and retaliated against Sarah on the basis of
her race and color in violation of CFEPA and Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(Title VII). The trial court rendered judgment dismissing the
commission’s administrative appeal from the decision of
the commission’s human rights referee, who had struck
the complaint on the ground that Sarah was not an employee
under the remuneration test. The Appellate Court affirmed the
trial court’s judgment; Commission on Human Rights
& Opportunities v. Echo Hose Ambulance, 156
Conn.App. 239, 253, 113 A.3d 463 (2015); and Sarah appealed
to this court. We affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.
record reveals the following facts, as alleged in the
complaint, and procedural history. Echo Hose provides
ambulance transport and other services to the city. Sarah,
who is African-American, was accepted into a
‘‘precepting program’’ with Echo Hose,
which required her to ride in an ambulance for one shift each
week and to participate in other activities. While taking
part in that program, and after completing it, Sarah
‘‘was treated differently due to her race and
color and . . . was subject to discipline that other
individuals . . . were not.’’ Specifically, Sarah
was subjected to comments about Africa and the ‘‘
‘ghetto, ’ ’’ was suspended without
good cause, and was terminated without good cause. Although
Sarah’s termination was later overruled, such that she
was able to complete the precepting program, members of Echo
Hose voted against making Sarah a member.
thereafter filed a complaint with the commission alleging
violations of CFEPA and Title VII. The complaint did not
allege that Sarah had been paid or had received other
benefits in conjunction with her activities with Echo Hose.
The city moved to strike the complaint, claiming that Sarah
was not an ‘‘employee, ’’ a factual
predicate to an action under either CFEPA or Title VII,
because she could not satisfy the remuneration test that
determines such a status. Brenda objected to the motion,
claiming that the proper test for determining who is an
employee under CFEPA is the ‘‘right to control
test, ’’ which Sarah satisfied. The referee
determined that the remuneration test applied to both Title
VII and CFEPA and that Sarah could not satisfy that test. The
referee therefore struck the complaint in its entirety.
the referee declined to rule on motions for reconsideration
filed by the commission and Sarah regarding Sarah’s
claim under CFEPA, the commission brought this administrative
appeal pursuant to General Statutes §§ 4-183 and
46a-94a. See footnote 1 of this opinion. The trial court
concluded that the referee properly had applied the
remuneration test and dismissed the appeal.
then appealed to the Appellate Court, which affirmed the
judgment of dismissal. Commission on Human Rights &
Opportunities v. Echo Hose Ambulance,
supra, 156 Conn.App. 253. We granted Sarah’s
petition for certification to appeal limited to the following
issue: ‘‘Did the Appellate Court properly apply
the federal ‘remuneration test’ rather than
Connecticut’s common-law ‘right [to]
control’ test to determine an ‘employee’
under [CFEPA] . . . ?’’ Commission on Human
Rights & Opportunities v. Echo Hose
Ambulance, 317 Conn. 911, 116 A.3d 309 (2015).
apply plenary review to this question of law, and well
established principles of statutory
construction.See General Statutes § 1-2z (setting
forth plain meaning rule); Caciopoli v.
Lebowitz, 309 Conn. 62, 69, 68 A.3d 1150 (2013)
(‘‘[w]hen a statute is not plain and unambiguous,
we also look for interpretive guidance to the legislative
history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the
legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its
relationship to existing legislation and common-law
principles governing the same general subject
matter’’ [internal quotation marks omitted]).
defines an employee as ‘‘any person employed by
an employer . . . .’’ General Statutes §
46a-51 (9). This circular definition provides no guidance on
how to assess whether someone is an employee. Cf. Daggitt
v.United Food & Commercial Workers
International Union, 245 F.3d 981, 987 (8th Cir. 2001)