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What Do You Think: Did Former Top Cop Qualify under CT’s Heart & Hypertension Act?

01 Aug, 2023 Chris Parker

question mark 2492009 640

Bridgeport, CT (–The Heart and Hypertension Act in Connecticut provides workers’ compensation benefits to city police department employees hired before 1996.

But what happens if the employee took on an entirely new job from his current one after 1996, and in the process retired from the first position?

A case involving a one-time Bridgeport police officer answers that question. The claimant began working as a police officer for the city police department in 1983. In December 2010, he was selected as police chief.

Because the chief of police in Bridgeport is not a union member, he had to technically retire as an officer before taking on the new job. He did so, filling out a form stating that he was “retiring from the police department.”

The subsequently sought workers’ compensation benefits under the Heart and Hypertension Act.

The Act affords workers’ compensation benefits to employees with heart problems if they were municipal police department employees who were hired before July 1, 1996. General Statutes § 7-433c.

The worker’s compensation commission denied the claim on the basis that the chief’s hiring date, for purposes of the Act, was 2010. The appeals board affirmed the decision and the chief appealed.

Was former chief entitled to take benefits under the HHA?
A. No. His job as chief was a distinct and separate position from his job as a police officer, and he retired as an officer before taking the new job.
B. Yes. He only retired due to union rules and remained continuously employed with the department.

If you chose B, you sided with the court in Gaudett v. Bridgeport Police Dep’t, No. AC 449872 (CT App. Ct. 04/12/23), which held that the claimant remained steadily employed with the department since 1983.

The court pointed out that the form the claimant completed stating he was retiring did not signal a change in his status as a regular member of the Department.

“In other words, although the claimant filed for and received retirement benefits when he vacated the position of deputy chief, he continued in his employ with the Bridgeport Police Department after December 20, 2010,” the court wrote.

The court acknowledged that the position of chief differed from other positions within the department in that it had different responsibilities and was not a union position subject to the collective bargaining agreement or entitled to the same pension plan as the other positions. Those factors didn’t trigger a break in the claimant’s status as a regular member of the department, however.

“There simply was no period of time from the plaintiff's hire in 1983 until his retirement in 2016 at which the plaintiff was not a regular member of the Bridgeport Police Department,” the court wrote.

The court reversed the commissioner’s decision.

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