One of the reasons I’m working on this project is to highlight the mandates and requirements that employers in the state need to follow. Some can lead to possible litigation; some can lead to, well, something less.

Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-51jj is an example of the something less. The key language of the provision is as follows:

An employer shall notify an employee of an incoming emergency telephone call for the employee if the caller states that the emergency involves a member of the employee’s family or  a person designated by the employee in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-56r [typically someone with the power to make decisions, like healthcare, over another.] It shall not be a violation of this section if the employer proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she made reasonable efforts to notify the employee of the emergency telephone call.  The failure of an employer to comply with any provision of this section shall be an infraction.

Scope: None provided in the statute itself.  Presumably, then, all employers, including the state.

What’s Prohibited or Required?  Upon receipt of an telephone call where the caller says there an “emergency!”, you must notify the employee of the emergency.

What’s an “Emergency”?  As defined in the statute, an emergency means “a situation in which a member of the employee’s family has died, experienced a serious physical injury or is ill and in need of medical attention.”

Private Right of Action or Other Penalty Allowed? No private right of action by an individual. It’s just an “infraction”.   But note that Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-69a does allow the Connecticut Department of Labor to seek penalties for violations of the rules of Chapter 557, which is where you’ll find Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51jj. The Attorney General can then institute a civil action to recover such penalties.

What the Heck is an “Infraction” Anyways? According to the Judicial Branch website: An infraction is a breach of a state law, regulation or local ordinance
that is identified as an infraction by the Legislature. A person who is charged with an infraction is usually not required to go to court. Payment of the total amount due by mail, in person, or on-line is authorized by section 51-164n of the Connecticut General Statutes. An “infraction” is not a crime and it is not an offense as defined in the criminal laws of Connecticut. There is no right to a trial by jury for infractions cases.

What May Be Recovered? Likely only the penalties that may be imposed by the Department of Labor.

Any Practical Steps Employers Can Take? If your office gets a call that says that an employee’s immediate family member has died, let the employee know. In other words, act with common sense and the Golden Rule.

Any Other Interesting Information or Background? The law was amended in 2002 as part of a larger series of reforms regarding what happens if an individual dies. Also note: the Connecticut Department of Labor lists some statutes like this on its website but unfortunately, has the older version of the statute of its website.  And finally, the law only covers telephone calls. Get an emergency text or e-mail? Not covered but honestly, just let the employee know.