January 1st is typically a time for new laws to kick in and 2019 is no exception.

For employers, the biggest change is one that I discussed way back in May with amendments to Connecticut’s Pay Equity law.

The new law prohibits employers from asking a job applicant his or her wage and salary history. But the prohibition does not apply in two situations:

  • if the prospective employee voluntarily discloses his or her wage and salary history, or;
  • to any actions taken by an employer, employment agency, or its employees or agents under a federal or state law that specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of salary history for employment purposes.

While salary may not be inquired, the law DOES allow an employer to ask about the other elements of a prospective employee’s compensation structure (e.g., stock options), but the employer may not ask about their value.

The bill has a two year statute of limitations. Employers can be found liable for compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, punitive damages, and any legal and equitable relief the court deems just and proper.  (This bill amends Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-40z if you’re looking for the pinpoint legal citations.)

Note that this ban on inquiries also applies to applications or other recruiting forms too. So, if your application asks for prior salary history, it’s time to eliminate that.  Employers should inform manager and other employees who conduct interviews about this requirement as well.


New York Rolls Out “Text” Stops

You might have missed it, but earlier this month, significant new restrictions when into place that govern when the driver of a car can use his or her cell phone.

Previously, Connecticut’s law restricting cell phone use by drivers was limited to times when the motor vehicle was in motion.  Thus, people were free to check their phones at a stop light, for example.

However, the new law now changes the definition of “operating” the motor vehicle to make it clear that drivers typically should not be using their cell phones at all. 

“Operating a motor vehicle” means operating a motor vehicle on any highway … including being temporarily stationary due to traffic, road conditions or a traffic control sign or signal, but not including being parked on the side or shoulder of any highway where such vehicle is safely able to remain stationary.

These changes make it improper to now drive while using a mobile phone — even when stopped at a light or in traffic.  There are some other limted exceptions to this as well (navigation systems are one exclusion, hands free devices are another) but they are narrower than ever before.

For employers, particularly those that have employees that use vehicles for business purposes, the new law should serve as a reminder to update your policies and educate your workforce about these new cell phone restrictions. 

Having an updated cell phone use policy in place can reduce an employer’s exposure to lawsuits arising out of accidents (though will not eliminate the risks to an employer.) 

And be sure to followup on enforcement too. After all, having a policy that is ignored by your employees won’t do you much good upon a lawsuit. 

Each year, the Connecticut General Assembly passes a number of laws. Rather than have them enacted immediately upon the governor’s signature, many of the bills become effective on October 1st of that respective year.

I followed several workplace bills earlier this year but most never made it very far. One bill did and it gives new workplace protections to family violence victims.  I previously did a full recap here, but here are the highlights:

  • The new law prohibits an employer from terminating, penalizing, threatening, or otherwise coercing an employee with respect to his or her employment because the employee (1) is a family violence victim or (2) attends or participates in a civil court proceeding related to a case in which he or she is a family violence victim. The bill doubles, from 90 to 180 days, the time an employee has to bring a civil action against an employer who takes any of these actions.
  • The new law requires employers to allow family violence victims to take paid or unpaid leave (including compensatory time, vacation time, personal days, or other time off) during any calendar year in which the leave is reasonably necessary for a variety of listed reasons. Employers may limit unpaid leave taken under the bill’s provisions to 12 days per calendar year but note that it has no effect on any other leave provided under state or federal law.  

    Employer can ask for notices and a written statement certifying the leave and ask that the leave be scheduled ahead of time as well.  But if the employer receives such notices, it must keep written statements confidential.  

By now, Connecticut employers should have reviewed their existing policies and procedures to understand the impact of this new law. Moreover, employers may want to consider amending their leave policies to cover this new type of leave.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether employees will avail themselves of this leave or whether this law will have only very limited impacts on employers.  But regardless, employers should be aware of this new leave should any requests by employees be made.