If at first you succeed, try it again. 

Well, that may not be how the saying goes, but the first back-and-forth post between me and Nina Pirrotti, an employee-side attorney, was so well received that we’re back for another conversation. 

Today’s topic: What legislation are we both keeping our eyes out for at the Connecticut General Assembly?  

The Dialogue Begins

Dan Schwartz: So Nina, our first post was such a hit that I think we’re due for an encore.  Thanks for being up for this.

It has only bewn a few weeks, but it feels like we’re moving at warp speed on developments.  We could spend another post just on The Donald, sorry, Mr. President. Somehow I think we’re likely to talk about that again soon.

But let’s focus today on some of the legislative items we’re keeping an eye on, particularly in Connecticut. Each year, it seems like our General Assembly likes to roll out fresh employment law ideas.

Is there a particular bill that you’re keeping your eye on now from an employee-side perspective?

nina_t_pirrotti1-150x150Nina Pirrotti: I’m so glad you asked!   Yes, let me tell you about one bill that has been on my mind on the federal level (I am speaking about it at an ABA conference in sunny Puerto Vallarta really soon) and then I will give you a couple of highlights from our backyard.  

The federal bill that looms large for me right now (although concededly perhaps not as large as the prospect of sitting on the beach, tequila based beverage in hand) is the misleadingly named  Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (“LARA”) which would force judges to respond to Rule 11 motions in a particular manner. 

Rule 11 allows for the possibility of sanctions to be imposed on attorneys or parties who submit (or later advocate for) pleadings which have been filed for an improper purpose or which contain frivolous arguments or claims. 

While Rule 11 motions rear their ugly heads relatively rarely in litigation, a newly invigorated Republican majority in Congress has proposed LARA which would amend the sanctions provisions in Rule 11 to remove all judicial discretion – – regardless of the circumstances of the individual case- – in two critical respects. 

First it would require the court to sanction any attorney, law firm, or party who violates the rule.  Second it forces judges who find the rule has been violated to order the offending party to pay  the other party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.  Those in my world who oppose LARA say that there is no proof Rule 11 is not working in its current form, that the changes would burden the courts and that  its “once size fits all” mandatory sanctions would unfairly penalize employees in civil lawsuits.

Closer to home, two bills come to mind.  The first is a proposed modification of C.G.S.A. 31-51m, a statute which bars employers from retaliating against employees who report  employers’ unethical or legal wrongdoings to public bodies. 

The modification seeks to  protect employees who complain about such conduct internally or who refuse to participate in an activity they believe to be in violation of the law.   It also seeks to extend the timeline to bring an action under the law (employees now have only 90 days to file) and to provide for a greater array of damages if the employer violates the statute.

The second is a proposal to provide eligible employees with paid Family and Medical Leave Act leave.  The proposed legislation would require employees to contribute 1/2 of 1% of their wages to it (there would be no employer contribution) and employees cannot opt out it.   

We plaintiff employment lawyers would welcome both pieces of legislation as long overdue and reasonably tailored to protect Connecticut’s workforce.

What are your thoughts from the other side of the aisle, Dan?    Or is there other proposed legislation that has captured your attention?

Continue Reading The Dialogue: What Legislation We’re Keeping Our Eyes On

calendar1Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard lots of grumbling about the employment law proposals being floated at the Connecticut General Assembly.  But it wasn’t until recently, that I understood how serious one proposal is.

Last week, proponents of House Bill 6933 held a press conference to have the legislature pass a measure requiring employers to post employee schedules 21 days in advance —or pay a “predictability tax” if that schedule is changed in any way. CBIA has more details here and describes it as a “Catch-22” for employers.

From an employment law perspective, the proposed bill would add yet another serious of layers for employers to have to address. The bill would require employers to provide employees with a minimum of 21 days notice of their schedules. Any changes to those schedules would result in the employer having to pay a “predictability” tax/penalty of anywhere of 1 hour of pay to 4 hours of pay or perhaps more.

Employees who are unhappy with the results could then file a claim with the Connecticut Department of Labor.

But that’s not all. Employees who believe that they should be compensated for the “predictability” pay could then file a claim in Superior Court for treble (read: triple!) damages and attorneys’ fees.

And under the bill, the employer could not defend itself by saying that the employee and employer have agreed to waive the predictability pay; in other words, the employee cannot say “I don’t need the three weeks’ notice”.  It would be mandatory.

Obviously, this is a class-action lawsuit bonanza waiting to happen.  All employers in the state — no matter how large or small — would be subject to this new law, if passed.

Putting aside the politics of such a proposal, I have little doubt that this proposal would be very onerous for employers to follow.  At the public hearing on this measure, there were many examples provided by non-profit employers and others that describe the difficulties that such a proposal would have.  Even the state’s judicial branch expressed serious reservations.

If this is an issue of concern to your workplace, you may want to contact your local legislature to share your opinion before the measure comes up for a possible vote something this year.