When I made predictions/wishes for 2015 at the end of last year, I offered up one on what the Connecticut General Assembly might do:
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.
There still some time left in the legislative session, but I’m getting increasingly pessimistic on this one.
Indeed, if anything, it seems from the bills being proposed that even more legislation is on the horizon that could take Connecticut into places no state has gone before. (Cue the Star Trek theme.)
For employers, this should be a major cause for concern. Because if you think that the amount of regulations and wage pressures that the state has been placing has been overbearing, the bills being proposed suggest that you haven’t seen anything yet.
Let’s go through some of them:
- First up is Senate Bill 1044. It would require employers of 500 or more employees to pay their employees $15 per hour minimum or face a $1 per hour tax/penalty/fine. CT News Junkie has the details from a press conference yesterday:
Legislation backed by labor advocates this year seeks to fine big corporations like Wal-Mart $1 per hour for each employee paid $15 per hour or less. The fiscal note estimates that about 146,710 of the 743,328 employees who work for companies with at least 500 employees would be covered under the bill. The bill would result in a revenue gain to the state of up to $152.6 million in 2016 and $305.1 million in future years.
A similar bill is up for consideration in the House, reports to the CBIA.
- Employers have often being paying unemployment taxes that seemingly go into an abyss. Indeed, already they pay some of the highest taxes in the nation in this area. As my colleague, Henry Zaccardi pointed out during his testimony at the legislature, reforms are needed. But we’ve seen this before and unfortunately, it seems unlikely that such reforms will be adopted which would make the trust funds more solvent. As he testified:
I understand the need for a safety net like a UC Trust Fund, but when it goes broke and employers are leaving the state, we need to do a better job of balancing [the methods we use to keep the safety net from breaking].
- There’s Senate Bill 106, which would create a new “unfair immigration-related practice” claim.
- Senate Bill 914 — which I’ve talked about before — remains alive and would increase the numbers of wage/hour claims in the state further.
- House Bill 6850 seems a little strange. It would make it improper for employers to prohibit their employees from discussing their wages. Anyone who follows labor law knows that the National Labor Relations Act already prohibits employers from those rules. Employees can typically discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with other employees. What House Bill 6850 does, though, is create a private cause of action for employees to sue their employers over this. The CBIA has noted that while the intent of the bill — to create pay equity — may be laudable, the bill wouldn’t accomplish that.
- House Bill 6875 would prohibit employers from asking applicants about their criminal history until after a job offer has been made. It would also allow applicants to not disclose any “nonviolent” misdemeanor convictions more than five years old.
- Under House Bill 6877 some employers would be required to schedule employees who perform janitorial services to a minimum 30 hour work week.
There are other bills out there too that would also push the influence of labor unions into the school curriculum as well. Senate Bill 910 is back again, and would require schools to teach about “worker history and law, including organized labor, the collective bargaining process and existing legal protections in the workplace”.
I’ve also heard rumblings, as I’ve noted before, about a proposed bill being floated that would make substantial changes to the CHRO process.
So much for 2015 being a quiet year for employers. Will any or all of these get passed? Stay tuned. The next two months promise to be a wild ride.