It’s been far too long since our last installment from March 2019, but my ongoing dialogue with Nina Pirrotti, a prominent plaintiff’s-side employment law attorney, is back. In this post, we talked about the highlights from 2019 with a sneak peek at 2020.  My thanks to Nina for her contributions. You can find her firm’s blog posts here as well.  

Dan:  Nina! Good to talk with you again here.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving; mine was full of turkey, stuffing and even skiing.  But we have so much to talk about. It seems that 2019 has been a busy year in employment law which is kind of surprising because the economy keeps rolling on. I thought we’d look back on 2019 and look ahead to 2020.

From my perspective, it’s tough trying to recap 2019 in just one or two paragraphs. The most obviously trendline to me sees to be that the #metoo movement shows no signs of abating or of a backlash.  And for people like both you and me who care about social justice, this is a great thing. Real change to root out sexual harassment has been long overdue. We’re now going to see training mandated at basically all workplaces and other changes.  But will it be enough or will it stall out in 2020?

Paid FMLA is obviously another big topic but we’re really not going to see those changes until at least 2021.  What else stands out to you from this past year?

Nina: A warm hello to one of my favorite sparring partners.  It is so great to rekindle our feisty exchanges!

Well, Dan, as you may have guessed from the two articles I wrote for the Connecticut Law Tribune in October 2018 and mid-March 2019, the critical issues raised by the #MeToo movement continue to loom large for me this year.

While we have on rare (and much publicized) occasions, seen the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, (See e.g. “’Survivor’ Contestants Apologize After #Me Too” Backlash”), the movement has largely been a force for healthy, overdue change.
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If you’re a Connecticut employer, new requirements regarding training and posting — as well as changes to the underlying anti-discrimination law — should be a must-read.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the General Assembly passed a series of revisions to Senate Bill 3, which itself passed over the weekend. Together, these series of changes (S.B. 1111 and S.B. 3) will impact employers of all sizes and cases at the CHRO. 

In essence, you had a bill that was amended after it already passed. Rather than get into what was in the original bill vs. final bill, I thought it might be helpful just to recap what is in the final version of the bills, as combined.

Governor Lamont is expected to sign these bills in the next week or so.

To be clear, this recap should not be a substitute for legal advice and this recap only addresses some of the most relevant private employer provisions; there’s some provisions in there regarding EEO officers for state agencies that are beyond the scope of this recap. Credit should also be given to the state’s OLR Bill Analysis as well. 

TRAINING

Currently, employers with at least 50 employees are required to give their supervisors two hours of training on state and federal sexual harassment laws and remedies.

The new law will require employers of all sizes to give training to supervisors by October 1, 2020 (or within six months of their assumption of supervisory duties, after that time).

For employers with 3 or more employees, the training must also be given to all other employees also by October 1, 2020 (or within six months of hire, after that time.)

In both instances, the training must be updated every ten years by employers, though it doesn’t seem to be the same two hours — just a “supplemental” update.  Also, any employee (including supervisor) trained since October 1, 2018 is exempt from being “retrained” a second time.

The bill requires CHRO to develop a free online training video or other interactive method. If that’s done on time, employers will have to give the training within six months of an employee’s start date.

If employers don’t provide training, it will now be a “discriminatory practice” that may allow employees to bring an action in the CHRO (or court).  The fine for failing to provide training will be $750.

NOTICES TO EMPLOYEES

The new law (piggybacking on existing law which requires a notice be posted regarding sexual harassment) will require employers of three or more employees to send a copy of this to employees via e-mail within 3 months of hire — so long as the employee has an e-mail address (company-provided or personal).  The subject line should be titled “Sexual Harassment Policy” or words very similar to that effect.  If the employer doesn’t give employees an e-mail address, the information must be included on its website.  If the CHRO develops something on their own, the employer can just provide this link.

The fine for failing to do so will be $750 as well.

CORRECTIVE ACTION IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS

When an employer takes prompt remedial action in response to a claim of sexual harassment, the new law requires that the employer can only modify the target’s condition of employment upon agreement in writing from the employee.  That means, transferring an employee to a different department can only be done upon written consent.

BUT, even if the employer did not obtain the written consent, the bill still allows the CHRO to find that the employer’s corrective action was reasonable and not “to the detriment” to the complainant, based on the evidence.

TIMEFRAME FOR FILING DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT CLAIMS
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The so-called “Time’s Up” bill that would make major changes to the sexual harassment and discrimination laws in the state — including adding new training requirements — went through final passage at the House on Saturday.  But don’t start changing your policies just yet.

Various news outlets are reporting that a “fix” bill — that

Senate Bill 3, titled “Combatting Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment” has been modified since first introduced and passed the Senate late last week.  Despite the title, the bill would impact every discrimination case filed in the state and would make significant changes to the sexual harassment prevention training requirements.

It is awaiting a vote

Readers of the blog will no doubt know that it’s been far too long since I had Nina Pirrotti on the blog for a conversation about employment law topics.

Excuses abound, but Nina — who mainly represents individuals in employment-related disputes — recently penned a piece for the Connecticut Law Tribune that is too good

Last year I talked about how the new era of sexual harassment claims was coming.  The open question was: Would the number of claims actually increase?

The answer to that is now known: Yes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its preliminary data regarding workplace harassment today. And it’s findings shouldn’t be a surprise if

Last night, I had the honor of being elected as Chair of the James W. Cooper Fellows Program of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, after serving for a year as Vice-Chair and Chairperson of the Fellows Education & Program Committee.

The Fellows are comprised of outstanding Connecticut lawyers, judges, and teachers of law; the Fellows put

Earlier this week, it seemed that a bill requiring employers to conduct additional training on sexual harassment matters was a no-brainer to pass the General Assembly.

After all, Senate Bill 132 passed 31-5 in the state Senate and in this #metoo environment (not to mention local elections in the fall), the House looked to