capitoldasIt’s a challenge for employers to keep up with changes to employment laws. What’s the current status? What do I need to change?

So, here are four quick things you can look at right now to ensure that you are up to compliance in Connecticut.

  1. Connecticut increased the minimum wage effective January 1, 2017.  It’s now up to $10.10 per hour. Are all your employees now at that minimum wage?
  2. Connecticut’s new Fair Change Employment Law went into effect January 1, 2017.  That means that most employers are not allowed to ask about a prospective employee’s prior arrests, criminal charges or convictions on an initial employment application unless the employer is required to do so by state or federal law, or a bond is required for the position for which the applicant is seeking.  When did you last update your employment application? 
  3. Last summer, Connecticut updated it’s state family & medical leave law to mirror federal FMLA law that allows an employee to take a leave for a “qualifying exigency”.  Recall too that Connecticut allows employees to take leave in order to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor. When did you last update your FMLA policy?
  4. Effective October 1, 2016, employers may now offer the use of payroll cards to deliver wages so long as the employee “voluntary and express authorizes” the payment of wages by that method and the employer provides a “clear and conspicuous notice” to employees about the use of it.  Have you updated your notices and have your received authorizations from your employees on the use of payroll cards?

 

In various posts, I’ve talked about how there is a slow but increasing trend to encourage employers to “ban the box” when it comes to job applications. That catchy (yet non-descriptive phrase) refers to a checkbox that is often found on job applications that asks applicants if they have any criminal convictions.

The news this week on that issue is that Target is the latest big employer to adopt such a  practice.    This is also in response to the EEOC’s guidance from 2012 strongly encouraging employers to eliminate the practice. 

It’s quite likely that the Connecticut General Assembly will also revisit the issue in the upcoming 2014 legislative session.

For employers, it’s important to note that banning the “box” does not mean that employers shouldn’t consider past convictions at all in determining an employee’s eligibility for employment.  Rather, like many background checks, the employer in those instances will wait until the applicant reaches the interview stage or gets a conditional job offer to ask about those convictions.

Right now though, EEOC guidance notwithstanding, private employers still remain free (mostly) to use those convictions as they see fit in the hiring process.

Public employers have some additional restrictions, so if you’re using criminal convictions to make decisions about who to hire, make sure you understand all of the limitations, which cannot be fully summarized in a single blog post.

Footnote: In an earlier post last July, I criticized the Office of Legislative Research for a report that I thought did not accurately state the status of the law in the area. I’m pleased to report that the OLR has updated their report to better reflect the status and I strongly recommend it as further background on this important subject.

Connecticut state law has long made it plain that the "policy of the state to encourage all employers to give favorable consideration to providing jobs to qualified individuals, including those who may have criminal conviction records." (Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-79.)  

In a prior post, I’ve discussed how state law does not prohibit private employers from using conviction records to make employment decisions, while public employers do have some restrictions under Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-80.

A new bill being (R.B. 5207) floated in the Connecticut General Assembly (a hearing on it was held on February 25th) would expand the protection by not allowing the public employer to ask about a conviction under after a conditional job offer has been made (with limited exceptions). Specifically: 

Except as provided in subsection (a) of this section, no employer, as defined in section 5-270, shall inquire about a prospective employee’s past convictions using a consumer report, as defined in section 31-51i, until such prospective employee has been deemed qualified for the position and a conditional offer of employment has been made to the prospective employee.

Advocates for the measure held a press conference on the subject last week, according to a report from CT News Junkie.

The measure is still a long ways off from thorough consideration or even passage. It has yet to be voted out of committee.

Criminal background checks have, in many ways, never been easier for employers. The internet has made that process quicker, cheaper and more transparent.

And yet, the question of "when" must employers run a criminal background check remains confusing. There are various laws on the subject but they are in different sections of the law and trying to come up with a master list is a difficult task.

So credit the Office of Legislative Research for coming up with a very useful primer this month on when background checks are required by state statutes.

So what does the report cover in detail? Well, the OLR report identifies "all occupations, persons, or other entities for which criminal history background checks are required by statute." It also discusses who is responsible for the criminal history checks and what procedures must be followed. Lastly, it identifies whether the subjects of these checks may be employed or licensed before the check has been completed.

Who is most likely to be covered? According to the OLR report:

Among the many individuals required to undergo criminal history checks are public school employees and school nurses, police officers, bail bondsmen and bail enforcement agents, private investigators, state marshals, locksmiths, pawnbrokers and precious metals dealers (at local option), and coaches with direct contact with children in police-sponsored athletic activities.

Criminal history checks are also required for applicants for nursing home licenses, various types of gaming related licenses, detective and security service licenses, taxicab company certificates, and at the discretion of the Department of Banking (DOB), various entities in the financial services industry. …

In addition to these many types of individuals and businesses, the laws require criminal history checks for prospective employees of several state agencies including the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Children and Families (DCF), Division of Special Revenue (DSR), and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), as well as employees in the vital records unit of the Department of Public Health (DPH), Department of Correction (DOC) employees who have direct contact with inmates, and Department of Developmental Services (DDS) employees who provide direct client care.

Kudos to the OLR for putting together this very helpful primer; I recommend it as a great starting point for employers looking to figure out their legal obligations.