Connecticut Employment Law Blog

Insight on Labor & Employment Developments for Connecticut Businesses

Legislative Update: Payroll Cards Finally Approved in Connecticut

Posted in Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Legislative Developments, Manager & HR Pro’s Resource Center, Wage & Hour

generalassemblyPayroll cards are finally here.

The General Assembly finished their regular session last night with several employment law bills getting passed, including some that have been kicking around for years.

One of them is Senate Bill 211, which authorizes employers to use payroll cards — instead of checks or direct deposit — to pay their employees.

But there are a number of conditions that must be met before this happens and there are a number of restrictions as well.  The bill will become effective October 1, 2016 — assuming the governor signs the measure, which is expected.

The Office of Legislative Research has done a thorough recap, which I’ll liberally borrow from here.

In order to use the card, an employee must “voluntarily and expressly authorize, in writing or electronically, that he or she wishes to be paid with a card without any intimidation, coercion, or fear of discharge or reprisal from the employer. No employer can require payment through a card as a condition of employment or for receiving any benefits or other type of remuneration.”

In addition, as noted by the OLR report:

  1. employers must give employees the option to be paid by check or through direct deposit,
  2. the card must be associated with an ATM network that ensures the availability of a substantial number of in-network ATMs in the state,
  3. employees must be able to make at least three free withdrawals per pay period, and
  4. none of the employer’s costs for using payroll cards can be passed on to employees.

Under the bill, a “payroll card” is a stored value card (similar to a bank account debit card) or other device, but not a gift certificate, that allows an employee to access wages from a payroll card account. The employee can choose to redeem it at multiple unaffiliated merchants or service providers, bank branches, or ATMs. A “payroll card account” is a bank or credit union account (1) established through an employer to transfer an employee’s wages, salary, or other compensation (pay); (2) accessed through a payroll card; and (3) subject to federal consumer protection regulations on electronic fund transfers.

Another big change, according to the OLR report: The bill also allows employers, regardless of how they pay their employees, to provide them with an electronic record of their hours worked, gross earnings, deductions, and net earnings (i.e., pay stub). To do so, the (1) employee must explicitly consent; (2) employer must provide a way for the employee to access and print the record securely, privately, and conveniently; and (3) employer must incorporate reasonable safeguards to protect the confidentiality of the employee’s personal information.

Lastly, current law allows employers to pay employees through direct deposit only on an employee’s written request. The bill allows an employee’s request for direct deposit to also be an electronic request.

An amendment, which also passed, (1) changes the timeframe in which an employer must switch an employee from a payroll card to direct deposit or check; (2) specifies that the limit on fees or interest charged for the first two declined transactions each month applies to calendar months; and (3) requires the cards to be associated with ATM networks that ensure, rather than assure, the availability of in-network ATMs in the state.

Overall, this is a big boost for both employers and employees.  The CBIA had supported the measure and it had received “cautious” support from the AFL-CIO as well.

Legislative Update: Employee Training Required for Hotels, Inns on Human Trafficking

Posted in Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Legislative Developments, Manager & HR Pro’s Resource Center, Wage & Hour

cgaOver the next week or so, I’ll be providing updates on various bills to pass (or fail) at the state general assembly.  They’re coming in fast and furious so patience is the order of the day.

But as we review various bills, there are employment-related aspects in places that you might not think. The first of these is in a human trafficking bill (House Bill 5621).  After passage in the House last month, this bill passed the state Senate last night. It now moves to the Governor’s office for his signature.

Section 5 of the bill sets forth new requirements for hotel (and similar lodging) operators to train and educate their employees.

Specifically, it requires that the employees receive training at the time of hire on the “(1) recognition of potential victims of human trafficking, and (2) activities commonly associated with human trafficking.”

But in addition to training, the hotel operator shall also conduct “ongoing awareness campaigns” for employees on the “activities commonly associated with human trafficking.”

Of course, the legislation is silent as to what exactly are the “activities commonly associated with human trafficking”, though prostitution is obviously mentioned in one aspect of the legislation.  It is unclear how detailed this training and the awareness campaign must be.

Beyond that, on or before October 1, 2017, and annually thereafter, hotel operators must “certify that each employee of any such establishment has received the training prescribed by this section in each employee’s personnel file.”

But again, it does not appear that this training needs to occur yearly — only at the time of hire — and only that the hotel operator certify that the training happened at the time of hire.  So the bill has a gap; current employees do not appear to need to be trained in this. And the employer must only conduct “awareness campaigns” which perhaps can be as simple as an email reminder or inclusion in employee handbooks.

In any event, hotel operators should consider updating their hiring packages to include this aspect and should update their employee handbooks to have a provision in there.

Upon signature from the Governor (which is expected), this provision becomes effective October 1, 2016.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the efforts of both the Connecticut Bar and the American Bar Associations on raising awareness and seeking legislation on this important issue.   Members of the CBA testified at the legislature on this bill and its passage last night was an end product of their efforts.

EEOC: Bathroom Access Rights Guaranteed By Title VII

Posted in CHRO & EEOC, Discrimination & Harassment, Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Laws and Regulations

restrm1Last fall, I raised the issue of bathroom access for employees that corresponds with their gender identity.

The issue, however, that seems to get the most press is restroom access.

Indeed, we’re now getting federal guidance on how to deal with the issue of restroom access. That remains one of the bigger issues (a proposition up on a Houston ballot turned into an ugly campaign of “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms”) but it doesn’t seem again to translate to claims filed.

What’s happened since then? Well, we’ve seen it become a topic on the presidential campaign trail and in North Carolina.

But we’ve also seen the EEOC say: Wait a minute. Federal law has something to say on this too.

Yesterday, the EEOC went a step further and issued a new fact sheet reminding employers that even a contrary state law isn’t a defense.

In Macy v. Dep’t of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821, 2012 WL 1435995 (Apr. 12, 2012), the EEOC ruled that discrimination based on transgender status is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and in Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133395, 2015 WL 1607756 (Mar. 27, 2015), the EEOC held that:

  • denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity is sex discrimination;
  • an employer cannot condition this right on the employee undergoing or providing proof of surgery or any other medical procedure; and,
  • an employer cannot avoid the requirement to provide equal access to a common restroom by restricting a transgender employee to a single-user restroom instead (though the employer can make a single-user restroom available to all employees who might choose to use it).

Contrary state law is not a defense under Title VII. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-7.  In G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd., — F.3d –, 2016 WL 1567467 (4th Cir. 2016), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reached a similar conclusion by deferring to the Department of Education’s position that the prohibition against sex discrimination under Title IX requires educational institutions to give transgender students restroom and locker access consistent with their gender identity.

Gender-based stereotypes, perceptions, or comfort level must not interfere with the ability of any employee to work free from discrimination, including harassment. As the Commission observed in Lusardi:  “[S]upervisory or co-worker confusion or anxiety cannot justify discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.  Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex whether motivated by hostility, by a desire to protect people of a certain gender, by gender stereotypes, or by the desire to accommodate other people’s prejudices or discomfort.”

Connecticut is one of the few states that already prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Thus, the EEOC’s statement should be seen as one in support of the interpretation in Connecticut.

For employers, keep it simple: Let employees use the bathroom that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity.  But it can also mean turning single-occupant bathrooms into gender-neutral ones too.  You can look at the OSHA guidance on this issue for more best practice tips.  If any employee complains, well, that’s not enough of a reason to deny access.

Connecticut Businesses Should Exercise Caution on DOL’s New FMLA Guide for Employers

Posted in Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Laws and Regulations, Manager & HR Pro’s Resource Center
USDOL Headquarters in DC

USDOL Headquarters in DC

Over the years in the employment law “blawgosphere” (isn’t there a better term by now?), I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with and conferring with several other attorneys who blog. One of those is Jeff Nowak, whose FMLA Insights blog has become a go-to place on all things FMLA.

So, it was no surprise yesterday that Jeff was one of the first to talk about a new FMLA notice that will be issued by the U.S. Department of Labor that can be used interchangeably with the existing notice. He also added this scoop:

After today’s announcement, I had the opportunity to connect with the DOL’s Branch Chief for FMLA, Helen Applewhaite, about the timing and obligations to post the new General FMLA Notice. She confirmed that employers would be allowed to post either the current poster or the new version. In other words, employers will not be required to change the current poster. For those that want to use the new poster, I will post a link as soon as DOL releases it.

Jeff also linked to a new employer’s guide to the FMLA, a companion of sorts to a 2012 release by the DOL for employees.   This 71-page guide will be a good starting point for employers on the basics of the law but it leaves more complex issues about the law unanswered.  For more on it, see Jeff’s post and a followup post by Jon Hyman, of the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog this morning as well.

Connecticut employers though should exercise extreme caution about using this guide as a bible.  As most employers in Connecticut are aware, there are significant differences between Connecticut’s FMLA law and the federal counterpart.  And because employers with 75 or more employees in Connecticut are covered by both, there is a significant risk that employers using only the federal FMLA guide will get the law wrong.

Connecticut has historically posted a comparison of the two laws that is helpful, again as a starting point.  But that comparison is now 17 years old and doesn’t address many of the current issues or things such as a military exigency leave that have occurred through changes to the FMLA law over the years.

So what’s an employer in Connecticut to do? Ignore it? Read it?

Probably a little of both.

There are certainly items helpful in both guides but, in my view, they aren’t a substitute for talking with counsel about more complicated issues such as intermittent leave and FMLA’s interaction with the ADA and Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave law.

If nothing else, be aware that when FMLA leaves do occur, there may be more to the solution than what is posted in the USDOL’s employer guide.

 

Thoughts on Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation, Despite Inaction by Congress

Posted in Highlight, Legislative Developments

dcvisitLast week, as part of my work with the American Bar Association, I had the opportunity to meet with all of Connecticut’s Representatives and Senators in Washington, D.C.  Most were available in person, while I met with senior staff in a few offices.

It was a truly rewarding experience. We talked about helping to ensure that legal services funding for the poor remains available and some other items that the ABA has been pushing on a national level both for lawyers and the general public.  You can learn more about #ABADay here.

Perhaps this sounds a bit corny, but I was struck by how earnest everyone was.  In the private meetings, each indicated a strong desire to get things accomplished and asked for help in doing so.  We talked about ways that bar leaders can work with their offices to push bi-partisan legal issues.

Those visits stand in stark contrast to the prevailing wisdom that nothing is happening in Washington or that the legislators are merely interested in their next term in office.  In talking with my ABA colleagues who made similar visits to other Congressional offices, most (but unfortunately not all) felt the same way.

congressOf course, all those positive feelings can’t overcome a simple fact: Congress is getting nothing done when it comes to employment laws.  Just think about how Congress and President Bush were able to come to terms on amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act and you realize how paralyzed things have become.

Now, members of Congress hold hearings on things like the one today the changes to DOL’s proposed Persuader Rule, rather than working to pass a bill that might address some of those issues.

The Connecticut delegation isn’t immune to this either. Indeed, some of their proposals stand no likelihood of passage right now as well. Rep. Delauro has proposed the Paycheck Fairness Act which has 193 co-sponsors, but no real support among the Republican leadership.  She has also proposed the Healthy Families Act as well, though that bill has 140 co-sponsors.  Joe Courtney has sponsored a bill that would amend OSHA by expanding the law’s coverage.

But after my visit to D.C., I left knowing that there are still many people in D.C. who work on bills that receive no publicity but that can have an impact on Americans every day.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting your representative or senator in D.C.  The offices are very accessible to the public and I have no doubt that they do listen to constituents who visit the offices personally.

My thanks to their offices for listening.

Secret Wisdom from the “Stars” of the Legal Profession

Posted in Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance
Retired Justice Harper at last night's event

Retired Justice Harper at CBA event

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend the Connecticut Bar Association’s awards dinner — titled, “Celebrate with the Stars”. It was a lovely event filled with accolades for some of the state’s best and brightest in the legal profession and beyond.

Yeah yeah, I can hear some of you say. Just another lawyers’ dinner. Boring.

But hear me out for a second.  What dinners like these remind me of — and should inform you of — is the fact that so many lawyers in the state continue to treat the work we do as a profession — rather than simply a business.

Yeah yeah, I can hear some of you say.  Nothing like lawyers talking about their self-importance. 

And my response is: If that’s what you believe, then as lawyers, we have to do a better job informing you about the system we are all involved with.  It’s just not like Law & Order. (Nor is it like Ally McBeal either, sadly.)

To understand our system, one can start by hearing the words from some of the giants of the Connecticut legal scene, like famed criminal defense lawyer Willie Dow and retired Supreme Court Justice Lubbie Harber, Jr., both of whom received awards last night.

During their remarks, both Dow and Harper talked about the central role that lawyers play in society — not only as people who look out for their clients, but as citizens who also look to the serve the profession, and the public.  Indeed, Dow received the bar association’s “professionalism” award.

When I work with new clients, that dynamic sometimes come into play.

When I was a younger lawyer, I attended a similar bar dinner with a federal judge at the time. He made a statement that has really stuck with me; he reminded the young lawyers that a client may have only one case in the courts, but it is likely that the lawyer will have to come up against the other side’s attorney time and again. He urged the lawyers in the room to never forget that the client’s case is not the lawyer’s case and to treat the case accordingly.  Objecting to an extension of time did not, for example, advance the interests of justice in most instances.

He was not suggesting that we avoid our duty to be a zealous advocate for our client. But he reminded us that our role was larger than that as well.  And he suggested that when you view the other side as a respected opponent (perhaps even when they may not deserve it), it serves the legal system and our system of justice better.

I know there are some who disagree with this approach. These lawyers preferred a scorched earth approach in which they object to everything and agree with nothing.   And, if you’re reading this looking for such a lawyer, you should look elsewhere.

Indeed, the lawyers and judges last night would also take umbrage with that approach. These folks understand that the legal profession deserves something more than that.  Indeed, Dow relayed advice he heard from a jurist as well: A lawyer has two roles — look out for your client and look out for the other attorney.

As an employment lawyer mainly representing companies, one of the things I’m always conscious of is the fact that the employees who sometimes bring suit are real people with families and dreams and aspirations of their own.  They are not villains to be vilified for sport.

Yes, it’s a case and we are brought in to defend our client’s position. But empathy for the other side and respect for the attorney bringing the case also brings, in my view, an enlightened approach where you can better understand the weaknesses in your client’s own position.

While the overwhelming majority of the employers I deal with are simply business people trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, they are not infallible either.  Sometimes they make mistakes — whether in not understanding the law or in overreacting to the situation.  Listening to the other side can make everyone better.

So, kudos to all the award recipients last night. You are models to our legal profession and help remind all of us that our work is never done and that we can always strive for excellence.

EEOC Requesting Information? Be Wary What You Tell Fellow Employees

Posted in CHRO & EEOC, Class Actions, Discrimination & Harassment, Featured, Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Litigation, Manager & HR Pro’s Resource Center

lettersPicture this scenario:

You come into your office one morning to learn that an employee has filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming that you failed to accommodate his disability reasonably and then terminated his employment because of his disability.

As if that isn’t challenging enough, many months afterwards, you receive a request from the EEOC to provide the names and contact information of his fellow employees who worked for you at the same time as the original complainant, as part of the EEOC’s investigation into the complaint.

This type of scenario isn’t uncommon; the state agency investigating discrimination complaints (CHRO) often requests information on co-workers as part of the investigation and sometimes requests that these co-workers be available for interview.

But here’s where the scenario gets interesting — and this story is based on a ruling on a motion to dismiss in federal court just this week in the EEOC v. Day & Zimmerman case.  The employer’s in-house counsel — seemingly with reference to outside counsel as well — decided to notify the co-workers of the request.

Indeed, the employer sent a letter to approximately 146 individuals, all of whom were members of same union as the Complainant and all of whom had worked, or continued to work, for the employer.  Whether you view the letter as an innocuous helpful note, or a nefarious threat will depend on your perspective.

In the letter (which you can download here at part of the employer’s filings — page 49), the employer identified the complainant by name, and indicated that he had filed a charge of discrimination on the basis of disability. The letter went on to identify the Complainant’s union local, the medical restrictions on his ability to work, and the accommodation he had requested. It further informed the recipients of their right to refuse to speak to EEOC investigator and offered them the option to have the employer’s counsel present if they chose to speak to EEOC.

Is there anything wrong with the letter?

According to the EEOC, yes (download here). The EEOC alleged that this letter constitutes retaliation against the original Complainant for opposing conduct made unlawful by the ADA. The EEOC further alleged that the letter interfered with the Complainant and the recipients of the letter in their the exercise or enjoyment of rights protected by the ADA, including the right to communicate with EEOC, the right to participate in an EEOC investigation, and the right to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC.

The employer, as you might imagine, vehemently disagreed and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint (download here).  It argued that the lawsuit “exemplifies the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)’s enforcement position of ‘do as I say, not as I do.'”  It noted that the EEOC, through the lawsuit itself, publicized the same information it now criticizes the employer for doing, even though the employer was obligated — it argues — to do so by the Rules of Professional Conduct (simply, the ethical code for attorneys).

The employer also argued that the letter explicitly re-affirmed the employer’s policy against retaliation, its commitment to equal employment opportunity, and the “employer’s position that a decision to speak with the EEOC investigator ‘will not have an adverse impact on your current or future employment.'”

The federal court rejected the employer’s motion to dismiss (ruling available here for download); in doing so, it emphasized that under the standards governing review of such motions, it must construe the federal complaint in a light most favorable to the EEOC. After doing so, the court concluded that the allegations were sufficient to state a claim for ADA violations  even though the Complainant had already been terminated from employment at least 17 months prior to the letter being distributed.

As a starting point, the court noted that “Routinely, courts have held that, when an employer disseminates an employee’s administrative charge of discrimination to the employee’s colleagues, a reasonable factfinder could determine that such conduct constitutes an adverse employment action.”  And the court concluded that, again construing the facts most favorably to the EEOC, the letter was sent just three months after the employer learned that the EEOC intended to pursue the complaint seriously:

Here it is plausible that the first opportunity to retaliate against [the Complainant], whom they had already terminated, was when the EEOC provided a list of fellow union members to whom Defendant could disseminate the potentially damaging EEOC charge.

The court also addressed the seldom-litigated issue of an interference claim under the ADA. It noted that neither the Supreme Court nor the Second Circuit has outlined a test for such a claim. (Though query whether the court overlooked the Second Circuit case of Gradziano — or at least had written its opinion before that one came out.)

Here, the court concluded that while there was no allegation of any direct evidence of the employer’s intent behind the letter, the issue of the employer’s intent “is a question of fact that cannot be resolved on a motion to dismiss.”

Moreover, the fact that the employer disclosed “sensitive personal information” about the Complainant could dissuade the Complainant and the co-workers from communicating further with the EEOC.

Obviously, this lawsuit if far from over.  Both the EEOC and the employer have staked out positions that make a compromise seem unlikely.  And so the case will likely proceed to discovery and then another round of motion practice.

For the rest of us though, this case — and the issues it touches upon — is again worth following.

In the meantime, employers should be very wary of mass notifications of discrimination charges to co-workers (former or current) in response to an EEOC inquiry.   Left unclear from the decision is whether there are any circumstances in which the employer can notify co-workers of the inquiry and at what level of detail.  Would an e-mail indicating that the EEOC may be contacting them but without the details of the Complainant’s complaint pass muster?  How strongly should an employer emphasize its policies prohibiting retaliation?

Employers are going to want to tread very carefully for now and consult their counsel about any communications going out.

The Rights and Limitations of Associational Discrimination under the ADA

Posted in Discrimination & Harassment, Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Litigation

While a recent Second Circuit case received lots of headlines regarding its discussion of individual liability under FMLA, the case has some other nuggets for employers to understand, as my colleague Gary Starr explains in today’s post.  Buried in Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America case is a reference to the fact that the federal appeals court had not “yet had occasion to consider what standard should govern such rarely litigated claims of ‘associational discrimination.'”

That is, until now. Thanks to Gary for highlighting this notable aspect of the case.

starrYou should all know by now (and call us if you don’t) that when an employee asks for a reduced schedule to address his/her own disability, the ADA and Connecticut law may apply. Indeed, under the ADA and state law, you should engage in an interactive process to work out a way for both parties to benefit.

But what happens when it is not the employee who has the disability, but rather a family member and the employee seeks an accommodation?

While we know that employers must address the situation involving a qualified individual with a known disability, the situation is different when the employee has a relationship with someone known to have a disability.

Discrimination is prohibited based on that relationship or association, but importantly, the scope of the employee’s rights is not the same.

The Second Circuit recently explained that there are three situations that can lead to a claim of associational discrimination:

  1. Where the employee suffers an adverse action as a result of the employer’s concern over the “expense” that may cause increases in insurance due to the employee’s association with a disabled individual covered by the employer’s insurance;
  2. Where the employee suffers an adverse action as a result on the employer’s fear that the employee may contract or is genetically predisposed to develop the disability of the person with whom he/she is associated; or
  3. Where the employee suffers an adverse action due to the employer’s fear that the employee will be inattentive at work due to the disability of the disabled person.

If any of these 3 situations is the basis for the adverse action, then the recent case suggests that the employer will have to prove that it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its action.

In the case before the court, there was no claim involving concerns about insurance or about the possibility that the employee might develop a disabling condition.  Instead the employee alleged that the employer feared the employee would be inattentive at work because her son developed diabetes and he was learning how to monitor his blood sugar.

While that was the allegation, the employee could not and did not show that she was fired because the employer believed she would be “distracted” by her son’s condition.  Rather, the evidence showed that she was fired because her employer’s concern was that she would not be at work at all.

The employee failed to prove she was discriminated against under the ADA as an accommodation was not available under these circumstances.

However, often these cases have an aspect under another federal law.  Here, the Family Medical Leave Act could provide her with the opportunity for intermittent leave, if necessary, and this became the basis for her lawsuit.

What cases like this demonstrate is that under the patchwork of state and federal laws, it is important to analyze a situation under differing statutes.  In this case, the employee had no recourse under the ADA, but did under the FMLA.  It is important to take the time and be sure that the requests made by an employee for an accommodation are fully reviewed.  The consequences can be protracted litigation and a large back pay judgment.

 

What’s Cooking at the General Assembly in 2016 (Part II)

Posted in Highlight, Legislative Developments

GA2So last week I provided a recap of a few of the labor & employment law bills still being kicked around the legislature.  From talking with a few folks in on the process, here are some other bills to keep an eye on (whether in this original form or as an amendment to an existing bill).

  • House Bill 5367 would reform the unemployment compensation process a bit. It makes several changes to unemployment benefits and eligibility requirements for receiving them by 1) increasing from $15 to $50 the minimum amount of weekly unemployment benefits most claimants can receive; 2) increasing from $600 to $2,000 the minimum amount most claimants must earn during their base period (the first four of the last five calendar quarters) to be eligible for benefits; and, 3) requires most claimants’ benefits to be based on their average quarterly wages during all four quarters of their base period, instead of during their two highest earning quarters.  The reforms would make Connecticut more consistent with neighboring states. The CBIA has supported this bill.
  • House Bill 5237 — the so-called “ban the box” bill — is one I’ve touched on before.  It was recently referred to the Appropriations Committee. It’s being closely watched by business interests and should be a top item for employers to track.
  • House Bill 5591 would create a Connecticut Retirement Security Authority (“authority”) to establish a program for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for eligible private-sector employees, who are automatically enrolled in the plan unless they opt out.  The bill would apply to all private sector employers that employ at least five people each of whom was paid at least $5,000 in wages in the preceding calendar year.  There is a significant administrative cost however to this bill and in light of the state’s fiscal crisis, it seems unlikely that it will be passed this year.
  • House Bill 5402 is still kicking around too.  It would greatly expand the state’s whistleblower protection laws by expanding protection to employees who (1) make reports to their supervisors or managers (either directly or through a third party) or (2) participate in the employer’s or a public body’s investigation or similar proceeding on request of a supervisor or manager or the public body. Not surprisingly, business interest groups have been opposing this bill because it greatly expands the scope of the protection and would change time deadlines as well.

Many other bills died in committee earlier this month so at least the scope of the potential changes out there is known. How much gets passed this year will depend, at least in part, on how the state can resolve its projected deficits.  Connecticut has been seen, of late, as being anti-business (see, e.g., GE) and the governor has made it clear that he’s not in favor of additional tax hikes on businesses.

So stay tuned!

What’s Cooking at the General Assembly in 2016 (Part I)

Posted in Highlight, Legislative Developments, Wage & Hour

generalassemblyThe 2016 Connecticut General Assembly is about one month from ending its term so it’s a good opportunity to see what bills are still floating out there.

I’ll do a bigger recap when we get close to the end of the session but if you have any interest in the bills (and, if you’re an employer, you should), you should contact your local representative as soon as possible.

  • House Bill 5261 is an interesting one and comes in response to a crackdown by the CTDOL on the employment relationship local sports leagues have with coaches and referees — namely, by saying that such leagues are responsible for unemployment compensation.  This bill exempts coaches and referees who work for private or public athletic programs, other than public school districts, from employer-employee rules for purposes of unemployment taxes and compensation.
    Under the bill, according to the Office of Legislative Research, “as of October 1, 2016 no employer-employee relationship is deemed to exist between certain operators of organized athletic activities and certain individuals employed as coaches or referees of those organized athletic activities, except such operators and individuals can mutually agree, in writing, to enter into an employer-employee relationship.”
    The bill has made it out of the Labor Committee and is still awaiting a vote out of the Finance Committee.  For more on the bill, see this recap from the CBIA.
  • Senate Bill 40 would limit the circumstances in which most employers can check the credit of job applicants and employees. But it also broadens the circumstances in which employers can require checks of people applying for or working in positions that would give them access to museum and library collections or prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals. The bill was voted out of the General Law Committee on April 5th and should be watched carefully.
  • Senate Bill 211 is one of those bills we’ve seen before; this would allow employers to pay employees by payroll cards, instead of by check, which could help reduce the use of predatory “paycheck loans” out there.    It too has made it out of committee and is awaiting a vote on the floor.
  • Senate Bill 221 would implement a paid family and medical leave program in the state.  It’s a complex bill but considering the publicity of such efforts in other states, this is worth a close follow.   But beyond that, this bill goes much further than has been previously reported as it would expand the existing FMLA law to cover all employers of two or more employees (down from 75) and would prohibit employers from requiring employees to use any paid time off as part of their FMLA leave.  Not surprisingly, business groups like the CBIA oppose the measure while other interest groups have showed strong support.

What else is going on? I’ll have more in an upcoming post.