The first few days of the new Connecticut legislative session are, dare I say it, kind of fun from an outsider perspective. That is, if you know what you are looking at.

Why? Because it’s the time when legislators start submitting “proposed” bills. But these proposals are far from polished products. Sometimes, these proposals are done to satisfy constituents. Other times, they are submitted to get the issue discussed before a committee.

Either way, they can raise a few eyebrows.

Take Proposed Bill No. 5267. This proposal would require “the Labor Department to develop and promulgate an employers’ bill of rights”.  Why? It would “serve to protect employers from frivolous complaints and claims brought by employees.”

My friend, Jon Hyman — who actually wrote a book entitled “The Employer Bill of Rights” — ought to love this one. Unfortunately, the substance of the proposal is basically confined to the line I just mentioned. No specifics.  But here are some that Jon has suggested:

The Right to Hire on Qualifications;

The Right to Fire on Performance;

The Right to Control Operations:

Alas, I think the Connecticut proposal is the beginning and end of such an idea.

The opposite of the above proposal is Proposed Bill No. 5080. This proposal would amend state statutes to require retail stores to close on certain holidays unless it allows its employees to decline to work such holidays without penalty.  Call it the Kmart effect; Kmart opened before breakfast on Thanksgiving.

It’s still early though. These bills will be discussed at today’s legislative committee meeting.  There are lots more proposals coming down the road. Among the other items on the committee’s agency “an act concerning the use of credit histories in employment decisions” and  “an act concerning healthy workplaces”.

Pull up a chair. The next few months ought to be interesting.

 

The Connecticut General Assembly is back at work so it’s time to take a quick peek to see what’s percolating.

2013 Legislative Session Begins

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association highlighted the “captive audience” bill as bill that is resurfacing, even though the Attorney General has previously raised doubts about the constitutionality of it.  The bill would restrict communications by the employer in general workplace meetings.  The CBIA highlighted the bill’s flaws:

The proposal usually shuts down much of what an employer can talk about with their employees in regular workplace meetings. For example, the last captive audience proposal restricted “political” discussions—with “politics” so broadly defined that almost any topic would have been considered off-limits. This would include issues critical to the effective management and operation of a business.

And under the threat of severe legal and financial penalties, an employer’s ability to communicate—particularly in opposition to the potential unionization of the workforce–would be effectively silenced.

Before this flawed concept goes any further, lawmakers should heed the attorney general’s warnings.

The Labor & Public Employee Committee at the legislature maintains a bill record bill that lists potential bills up for consideration.  As the session progresses, this list gets more refined.

Among the early “Proposed Senate Bills” under consideration:

  • Proposed Senate Bill 56, which would increase minimum wage by 75 cents in January 2014 and another 75 cents in January 2015;
  • Bills that would either eliminate or expand paid sick leave (Proposed Senate Bills 179 and 198);
  • Proposed Senate Bill 159, which would “prevent current or potential employers from requesting or requiring that employees or potential employees provide passwords to their personal accounts as a condition of their employment.”

On the House side, a few “Proposed House Bills” are starting to surface too including:

The next meeting of the Committee is set for January 29th, where these concepts — and others, including teaching about the history of the labor movement — will be discussed.  No public hearings have yet been posted publicly.

I was hoping that fellow blogger, Jon Hyman (of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog fame), and I would get to make another World Series bet. Unfortunately, his team (the Phillies) and mine (the Yankees) are both watching the World Series from some tropical poolside bar.

Employer Bill of Rights?

But it gives me an excuse to cite to a recent post by Jon in which he attempts to outline what an employer’s Bill of Rights would look like.

Among the rights he describes:

  • The Right to Hire on Qualifications and Fire on Performance: We want to be able to hire a white male under the age of 40 without fear of a lawsuit from every protected class we did not hire. We want to be able to fire without the fear of an expensive lawsuit when you fail to perform.
  • The Right to Criticize: Every performance review is not an attempt to push you out the door. Believe it or not, every employee we hire represents an investment by us. We want that investment to bear a substantial return. Criticism is meant be a constructive attempt to help you improve, not a destructive set-up for you to fail.
  • The Right to Control Operations: We know how many people we need to employ, how many shifts we need to run, and how many facilities we need to operate. Most importantly, we know what can afford to remain profitable. If we have to shutter or relocate a plant, lay people off, or furlough hours, it’s not because we are discriminating against you; it’s because it’s necessary for us to remain open and able to employ anyone at all.

On first blush, it certainly is provocative.  Why, after all, do companies need to have rights? (Something that the Occupy Wall Street group would certainly take issue with.)

But the point I think Jon is making is that despite all the rights that have been granted to employees over the years (FMLA, ADA, WARN, etc), employers still have things that they can do that should avoid judicial intervention.

I use the word “should” in the loosest sense because even a situation as simple as an employee quitting his or her job can turn into a legal proceeding over the eligibility for unemployment compensation or, worse yet, a hostile work environment “constructive discharge”.  The “rights” aren’t set in stone and unfortunately, that makes it difficult for employers to get some certainty in their employment decisions.

So, dear readers, what is Jon’s list missing? Or is the whole notion of an employer’s bill of rights too far-fetched?