At our Shipman & Goodwin Labor & Employment Law seminar last week, one of the hot topics that got attendees talking was about minimum wage & overtime rules — both of which are in the midst of change.

But my fellow partners brought up another law in that discussion that shouldn’t be overlooked.  And

As I said before, the notion that this might be a quiet year for employment law legislation at the Connecticut General Assembly has long since left the train station.

Indeed, we’ve appear to be swinging completely in the opposite direction. Anything and everything appears up discussion and possible passage this year — including items that really stood no chance in prior years.

GA2I’ll leave it for the political pundits to analyze the why and the politics of it all. But for employers, some of these proposals are going to be very challenging, at best, if passed.

One such bill, which appeared this week on the “GO” list (meaning its ready for considering by both houses) is House Bill 6850, titled “An Act on Pay Equity and Fairness”.  Of course, you won’t find those words in the bill itself which is odd.  There is nothing about pay equity in the bill; indeed, it is much much broader than that.

It stands in contrast to, say, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which tried to tackle gender discrimination in pay directly.

This bill would make it illegal for employers to do three things. If passed, no employer (no matter how big or small) could:

  • Prohibit an employee from disclosing, inquiring about or discussing the amount of his or her wages or the wages of another employee;
  • Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that purports to deny the employee his or her right to disclose, inquire 1about or discuss the amount of his or her wages or the wages of  another employee; or
  • Discharge, discipline, discriminate against, retaliate against or otherwise penalize any employee who discloses, inquires about or discusses the amount of his or her wages or the wages of another employee.

You might be wondering: Isn’t this first bill duplicative of federal law? And the answer is yes, and then it goes beyond it.  Federal labor law (the National Labor Relations Act) already protects two or more employees discussing improving their pay as a “protected concerted activity”.  It’s been on the books for nearly 80 years. So, as noted in an NPR article:

Under a nearly 80-year-old federal labor law, employees already can talk about their salaries at work, and employers are generally prohibited from imposing “pay secrecy” policies, whether or not they do business with the federal government.

This provision goes beyond that by making it improper for an employer to prohibit an employee from even disclosing another employee’s pay.


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UPDATED

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Courts’ publication “The Third Branch” updated the public on a pilot program that has been going on for a while that established initial discovery protocols that employers and employees need to follow in discrimination cases, without the need for case-specific discovery requests.

Sharpen your pens

(I was tipped off to this by Alli Gerkman, who is the Online Content Manager of IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.  The IAALS worked with a group of employment lawyers to develop these protocols. My thanks to Alli for the detailed information and I recommend their website for further details.)

Nice article, you may be thinking, but so what? It’s just a pilot? Well, as the article indicates, “any district judge may choose to adopt the protocols, which do not require changes to local rules.”

The pilot is getting strong support; the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules has encouraged judges to join the pilot.  As the article goes on to note, “Judge Jeremy Fogel, Director of the Federal Judicial Center, sent a memo to all chief district judges, advising them of the availability of the employment protocols.”
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A few months ago, I reported on the District Court’s decision in Amara v. CIGNA, an important class-action case on ERISA retirement benefits and on alleged misrepresentations made by the Company about retirement benefits.  Over the last few months, then, the court was asked to consider the issue of what is appropriate relief from the

Lawyers representing the class of retirees from CIGNA will argue that their clients are entitled to "hundreds of millions" of dollars in retirement benefits as a result of misrepresentations made by CIGNA, according to a report in yesterday’s Hartford Courant. 

The Courant — which finally reported on the decision 5 days after it came

Difficult, time-consuming, and expensive litigation with uncertain results – such as this case represents – is assuredly not a sensible way to manage the Nation’s retirement system for either employers or employees. Sadly, at least for now, litigation appears to be the only option available to them.

In a 122 page opus on ERISA law