Having tackled the predictions in employment law on a federal level, what does the future hold for employers in Connecticut?
Besides a debate on Family & Medical Leave Insurance, there are a few things we’re likely to see.
1. New bills at the General Assembly: The first one comes courtesy of Mara Lee over at the Hartford Courant; with “predictable scheduling” now become a cause celebre for unions (see this article in The New York Times back in August), the co-chair of the General Assembly’s Labor Committee promises a hearing on the subject. A bill seems still far off, but issues like this have a tendency to percolate for a bit. Expect to hear a lot more about this.
What else? I still think a bill on workplace bullying will again come up for debate. And the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities will again push for changes to their procedures as well, according to minutes from recent CHRO meetings. Non-compete legislation always seems to be popular too. With a new two-year cycle starting up soon in the “long” session, it’s likely to be busier than last year.
My prediction? We’ll see a new rule or two, but with all the mandates that have been passed in the last four years, I expect there to be more bluster from politicians, but that we’ll actually see a bit less interference when all is said and done — at least for now.
2. Clarification on Free Speech Rights for Private Employees: The Connecticut Supreme Court is set to hear arguments later this winter on whether the Connecticut Constitution offers private employees more free speech rights than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. At issue in Trusz v. UBS is whether speech that relates to an employee’s official job duties is protected under the Connecticut Constitution; under the Schumann case from a few years ago that I was involved with, the Court found that such speech isn’t protected under federal law but left open the issue under state law.
My prediction? The court will find that such speech isn’t protected under the Connecticut Constitution. But I should disclose that I’m not exactly an impartial observer; I am leading a team of attorneys here that filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association this fall advocating the same thing. My more confident prediction is that the decision from the court will not be unanimous.
3. Agencies and Task Forces Take Leading Roles: There are several issues that have been “floating” out there for a while. Expect to see movement on some of them. For example, the Domestic Workers Task Force is set to issue a report on October 1, 2015 that could set the tone for future legislation on the subject. And on July 1, 2015, new electronic prevailing wage notices go into effect.
At the CHRO, expect to see some additional visibility from this group. With Gary Collins’ leadership at the CHRO, a long-standing backlog on cases continues to get winnowed down. And with new leadership from Tanya Hughes, we’re seeing more public outreach through programs, newsletters and even a new blog developed by interns (and which has a nicer splash page than this one….). And a new computer system for the agency — set to start last week — will finally bring it up speed, years after a prior system outlived its useful life.
On the flip side at the CHRO, there is little stopping the trend of the overwhelming number of cases being retained for mediation and investigation. For employers, this means that cases filed at the agency will, on average, continue to be more expensive to defend than five years ago.
My prediction? Beyond these, I also predict that we’ll see some impact from the introduction of revised white-collar overtime rules at the federal level. Connecticut may use those changes to revisit the rules at the state level.
2014 was a relatively quiet year in employment law overall in Connecticut. I expect a busier and buzzier year in 2015.