The 2018 session of the General Assembly started last week and increasing workplace training is a top priority for passage.

Indeed, it is not surprising that we’re starting to see the first proposed legislation to address the number of harassment claims that have been making headlines the last six months.

Governor’s Bill 5043 sets up the following changes:

  • First, it would increase the number of employers that need to provide anti-harassment training — resetting the number of employees needed to fall under the statute from 50 to 15.
  • Second, the bill would also require all employees (not just supervisors and managers) to undergo two hours of what it calls “awareness and anti-harassment compliance training” and have that training updated every five years.
  • The training that now is just focused on sexual harassment prevention in the workplace, but would also be expanded to include all types of harassment—including that based on race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status, and national origin.
  • The training would also be required to include information about the employer’s policy against harassment, examples of the types of conduct that constitute and do not constitute harassment, strategies to prevent harassment, bystander intervention training and a discussion of “workplace civility” that shall include what is acceptable and expected behavior in the workplace.
  • The bill would require employers of three or more employees to continue to post information regarding all types of harassment and, on an annual basis, to “directly communicate such information and remedies to employees on an annual basis”.

My best guess is that this item of legislation will go through some additional tweaks to satisfy various constituencies, particularly because of the increased costs involved.

For example, expanding the training to all employees would create a massive new industry for training and, as the CBIA has said, a costly mandate as well.

There is more legislation coming down the pike in the employment law area.  This is just one of the items being floated so stay tuned.

Are you an early bird? (Raises hand.) Do you still listen to AM Radio? (Hand still raised.)

Well, then you may have caught my repeat appearance a short while back on the CBIA Business Minute — a production every weekday morning heard locally at 5:59 a.m. on WTIC-AM (1080 on your radio “dial”).

Long time readers may recall may last appearance way back in 2009 where I talked about the effects the recession was having on employers.

But this time around, it’s all about the National Labor Relations Board.

Fortunately, the CBIA also put the business minute program up on its website. Each is, well, just a minute to listen to and is perfect for employers who want to know a bit about the agency.

My thanks to the CBIA for the invitation to appear.

microphoneWith spring nearly upon us (one can only hope, right?), there are a number of upcoming programs that I’ll be attending or speaking at.

Some are free while others are related to the sponsoring entity.  I hope you can attend one and please feel free to come up to me to chat while we’re there.

  • First up, on March 17th, our firm is putting on our Labor & Employment Spring Seminar focusing on public sector topics.

    Among the topics being explored: Crisis Management; Security in Schools and Workplaces; Title IX Compliance; Trending Topics in Public Sector Negotiations; and, Off-Duty Misconduct.

    Registration is now open and is on first-come, first-served basis.  We expect this to sell out, so please be sure to register today here.

  • On March 23, 2016, my colleague Jarad Lucan and I will be speaking at the CBIA 2016 Human Resources Conference.

    Our topic is one that certainly hot: Namely, Why the NLRB May be Your Biggest Headache in 2016 — Particularly If You Don’t Have a Union.

    Registration is now open for this program as well.

  • And then on May 2, 2016, I will be making a return engagement to the Tri-State SHRM Bi-Annual Conference.

    The event, which is taking place in Rhode Island this year, features a number of tracks. I’ll be kicking things off on Day 1 with a program on Document Retention and Documentation Issues. My colleague Ashley Marshall will be joining me for this interactive and informative presentation.

    Registration is also open for this program now too.

I look forward to seeing you at one of these upcoming programs.

With 2014 coming to a close, it’s time to look ahead at some of the issues that we’re likely to see discussed in 2015.

One such issue is a Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program in Connecticut.  The origins of this come from a 2013 special act which created a task force to study the feasibility of providing short-term insurance benefits to those unable to work for FMLA-related conditions.

This fall, the Task Force outlined a plan for a new state-administered benefit program.  For those following the issue, it was not altogether surprising that the Task Force recommended that a program be implemented by the legislature.

Among its recommendations:

  • Establish a family and medical leave benefit plan to provide paid leave for applicable purposes as defined under federal or state law. The plan shall be mandatory for all private and state employees, without regard to the size of the employer.
  • The financial benefit shall be 66% of the average weekly earnings of the employee, up to a maximum of $1,000/week, for a maximum of six weeks in any 12-month period.
  • For the period an employee is receiving benefits under this plan (1) employees who work for employers that are currently required to provide job protection and continuation of benefits (e.g. maintenance of health insurance) per federal and state laws will continue to enjoy the same rights, (2) employees who work for employers that are not currently required to provide job protection and continuation of employer benefits per federal and state laws will not be entitled to such rights. However, said employees are protected against discriminatory employment practices resulting from the utilization of the plan.
  • The plan shall be 100% employee funded. It will be funded by withholding and placing a percentage of an employee’s pay into a plan fund.
  • The administration of the plan shall be handled by the Department of Labor.

After the findings, the CBIA issued its own report with an alternative suggestion.  Its conclusion? “Connecticut should not enact a new mandate for paid family and medical leave, particularly the one designed by the [Task Force].”

It cited the “likely prohibitive expense” and the likelihood it would cause “unintended consequences for employees in Connecticut and their employers.”  And it stated that “no evidence conclusively points to the need for such a program or its efficacy at reducing economic hardships on women in the state.”

What’s the Prediction for 2015?With a Democrat-controlled legislature and Governor Malloy’s re-election, one would initially think that this would be a slam-dunk.  But my sense is that the predicted budget deficit will allow the state leaders to pass on this issue for now.  Additionally, there is little doubt that business interests would mobilize against such a proposal.  While the issue may get some publicity and will likely get out of committee, I would be surprised if it made it to a floor vote.

January is almost over, which probably seems a little strange to be talking about what happened in 2013.

But as someone who majored in history in college, I’m a firm believer that you can learn a lot by studying the past — even the recent one.

Which is why I’m excited about tomorrow’s presentation that I’m giving to the CBIA’s HR Council.

The topic?  It’s Not Just DOMA: Recent Decisions that Will Impact HR in 2014.  

CBIA members can sign up for just $15 (non-members are just $30).  It will run from 8:30a to 10a at CBIA headquarters.  You can click here to register.

Readers of the blog probably won’t be surprised by the discussion of cases, but I’m hopeful that the discussion will lead to a useful dialogue for attendees.  After all, cases are only useful if you can learn something to take away from them.

Hope to see you there.  If you read the blog, feel free to say hi.

There’s been little press over what is going on at the Connecticut General Assembly this spring. 

With no big employment law issue (other than minimum wage) dominating the headlines like Paid Sick Leave in the past, you might think that there isn’t much happening.

But as the Connecticut Business and Industry Association highlighted in a post late last week, there are a number of, what it termed, “anti-employer” bills that have already passed committee which, if approved, will make it “much harder and more costly for Connecticut employers to operate successfully in the state.”

Here are three things still to keep an eye on:

  • A parental leave bill that mandates employers provide up to eight hours of leave to attend a child’s qualified school activities is still being considered.   
  • Senate Bill 159 states that employers can’t ask or require employees or job candidates to disclose to the company their social media passwords. As I’ve noted before, however, the bill leaves employers vulnerable in the event the employee uses his or her own personal social media account to violate policy or share inappropriate information. 
  • A minimum wage increase is still up for debate too. 

On a positive note, some needed changes to the existing Paid Sick Leave law have also passed committee. These changes would clean up some of the issues that have been plaguing employers.   One of the changes would make calculating the number of employees an employer has more consistent with how CTFMLA is determined too. 

There’s still a little more than two months left to the session so there’s plenty of time to see how things all plays out.

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Labor & Public Employee Committee today is considering drafting a proposed bill “to prevent current or potential employers from requesting or requiring that employees or potential employees provide passwords to their personal accounts as a condition of their employment.”

I won’t mince words. Proposed Senate Bill 159 is a bad idea. 

It’s a solution in search of a non-exisitent problem and ultimately it would have serious ramifications for employers in Connecticut.

Ohio is currently considering the same type of bill and Jon Hyman, from the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, neatly summarized the reasons why this remains a bad idea.  Here are two of them which are directly applicable to Connecticut:

  • It contains no exceptions for internal investigations. Suppose, for example, Jane Doe reports that a co-worker is sending her sexually explicit messages via Facebook. You have an absolute duty under both Title VII and [state] employment discrimination statute to investigate and take whatever remedial action is necessary to ensure that any misconduct ends. Yet, this bill would prohibit you from even asking the accused to provide access to his Facebook account as part of your investigation.
  • It contains no exceptions for regulated industries. For example, registered representatives have special rules that dictate what they can or cannot say to clients and prospective clients via social media. FINRA requires employers to track and maintain records of the communications between registered reps and the public. Yet, this bill would prohibit a securities firm from requiring its registered reps to turn over these communications. It would also prohibit the firm from even asking for access to a rep’s social media account to investigate a customer complaint or regulatory issue.

I’m not advocating employers ask their employees for their passwords on a routine basis.  It’s poor human resources practice.  But what Connecticut doesn’t need is another knee-jerk piece of legislation that will do much more harm than good.

The bill already received a preliminary thumbs up in the committee a few weeks ago.  The CBIA has opposed it and suggested very narrow language to address whatever concerns are there.

Let your local legislator know that this bill should go no further in its current format.

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking as part of the CBIA Wage & Hour Rx program.  Full details are available here

The presentation will focus on the issues that can keep employers up at night and how employers can dig themselves out of some of the problems that they may face.

But in preparation for that presentation, I reviewed some laws that employer might easily overlook.

For example, under the child labor provisions, most people assume that the same rules apply across the board to all individuals under the age of 18. But state law provides an interesting exception — minors under the age of 18 who have graduated from high school are allowed to work at the same daily and weekly hours and times of day as adults.

In other words, minors who are high school graduates are exempt from Connecticut employment prohibited to minors, but there still may be federal employment prohibitions. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-12.

Another example of an overlooked provision is the requirement that employers with 25 or more employees to form a safety and health committee with employees. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-40v.)

What conclusions should employers draw?

There are many many employment laws out there.  It’s easy to just focus on the big ones, but don’t let the little ones trip you up either.  Be sure to self-audit not only what your policies state, but also how they are being implemented in practice. You might be surprised by what you find, but that should also lead to an opportunity to get into compliance sooner rather than later.

We had a great turnout and reaction to the presentation yesterday at the CBIA Human Resources Conference in Rocky Hill. My thanks to all who sat in our packed room and the great questions that everyone asked.

A few observations from the conference:

  • The lines between work and personal activities continue to get blurred and employers are struggling with this. Even where there is no relationship apparent between the two, blogs and Facebook activities are causing or have the potential to cause disruption at a company.  Figuring out where your company will draw the line is important to determining what level of social media activity your employees will be allowed to engage in.  (For more on this topic, see this excellent post from this morning from the Delaware Employment Law Blog about the employee who was fired for his sex-themed blog.)
  • As a result, developing a social media policy or a set of guidelines may assist your employees in what is permissible and what isn’t.
  • Connecticut does have a statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51q that gives private employees some limited First Amendment protections to free speech when that speech is a matter of "public concern". An unanswered question thus far then for employers is whether an employee’s conduct on social networking sites could be seen as being protected by this statute.  There haven’t been any cases about this…yet.
  • Another interesting topic of discussion was whether an employer can require an employee to set up their Facebook page to have strong privacy settings.  I don’t think a hard-and-fast rule can be applied; clearly where the person’s position requires some use of Facebook and where there are teens involved (camp counselors, child-care workers), it seems a much more reasonable request, than say for a fast-food worker.  But feel free to comment below whether you think employers can dictate the privacy settings employees need to use on their personal Facebook pages.

 

Along with Brent Robertson from Fathom, I’ll be speaking at tomorrow’s annual CBIA Human Resources Conference in Rocky Hill.   The topic: Social Media — Use and Misuse.

You can download the brochure here and register here.  There are lots of other good programs on the agenda as well.   

For those that follow the blog, the themes we will discuss in our breakout session are some of the common ones I’ve discussed in various posts. 

The key takeaways: Social media is a tool; it’s not inherently good or bad. It’s HOW you and your employees use that tool that will dictate its utility or its harm to your business.

In addition, just because social media is "new" doesn’t mean that you — an an employer – can’t apply the "old" rules. You can still insist that employees preserve confidentiality, for example. 

For the rest, you’ll just have to stop by.  Hope to see a few of you there.