The Connecticut General Assembly is already busy with a full compliment of employment law bills under consideration.  At this point, it seems likely that several will pass in one form or another and thus employers should be playing close attention to the developments.

Here are a few of the Senate ones that I’m watching (I’ll tackle the House bills in tomorrow’s post – now available here):

  • Senate Bill 1 – This is the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill that has been kicking around for a few years.  Late last week, the Labor & Public Employees Committee issued a new draft.  There are a LOT of details to this but in essence, the bill would have two major changes. First, it would create a new paid family leave insurance program that would take contributions from employees and distribute those contributions to employees who need to take paid leave — similar to a workers’ compensation program.  Second, the bill would make significant changes to the existing Connecticut Family Leave law, to broaden the law’s application to all types of employers and broaden when an employee may take the leave as well.  More to come as this bill progresses.  A hearing on the bill is scheduled for February 14, 2019.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 64 – This is a rehash of a bill that would limit so-called “captive audience” meetings.  The details are still in flux but the Labor & Public Employee committee voted to draft the bill on February 7, 2019.  I’ve discussed prior versions of the bill here, including the Attorney General’s concern that such a bill may not be legal.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 358 – This proposed bill would provide employees with time off to vote in elections.  The committee voted to draft the bill late last month but there’s no indication yet whether this would apply to all local elections (such as a town budget referendum) or just broad state elections.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 697 – This proposed bill, which is scheduled for a hearing on February 14, 2019 and is lacking details as of yet, would “place restrictions on workplace nondisclosure agreements to prohibit the silencing of victims in the workplace and to prevent sexual harassment by repeat offenders.”  This would seem to go further than the recent federal law which limited tax deductions for confidential sexual harassment settlements.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 700 – This bill would allow for electronic signatures by employees in the restaurant industry when distinguishing between service and non-service duties. This bill is also scheduled for a hearing on February 14th.  It would be a small but significant help to small employers who have trouble keeping up with the record-keeping requirements in this area.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 764 – This bill would prohibit on-call shift scheduling — something that has been under attack in prior sessions as well.  Specifically, the bill would “prohibit the employment practice of requiring an employee to call an employer prior to a scheduled shift to confirm that the employee is needed for the shift, and to require employers to give an employee at least twenty-four hours prior notice if the employee is not needed to work a scheduled shift.” The Labor & Public Employee committee voted to draft this proposal so watch for a full-fledged bill soon.
  • Proposed Senate Bill 765 – And then there’s this proposed bill scheduled for a hearing on February 14, 2019.  Right now, it states that the law would ensure all employees “receive fair and equal pay for equal work”.  What that means for employers is anyone’s guess right now.

This is about a busy a listing as you can reasonably expect to see from our part-time legislature.  It’s still early but that’s just the half of it.  I’ll tackle the House bills in my next post.

So, by now (Friday morning), your preparations at your workplace should be in full swing.  The latest forecasts this morning call for a landfall on Sunday somewhere along the Connecticut coast (perhaps Bridgeport) with hurricane impacts felt throughout the state.

Irene is Coming

Connecticut has set up some new resources since my post yesterday specifically on Hurricane Irene.  The 8 a.m. update is posted here.   It is frequently updated and also has a list of people to follow on Twitter.

But so far, it’s not easy to find out about all storm-related workplace laws in one place on the state’s website. (How about an update Department of Labor?)

While a blog post cannot address all of the FAQs that might come up, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a few wage/hour issues. As always, consult with your legal counsel/advisor on any specific issues you have and how these laws might apply to your workplace.

Reporting Time or Minimum Daily Earnings Guaranteed: Connecticut has a “reporting time” obligation (as do several of our neighboring states). It is contained in various regulations and applies to certain industries like the “mercantile trade”. You should already be aware of this law, but it has particular application in storm situations where people may not work full shifts.

Continue Reading Hurricane Irene: “Reporting Time” Pay and Other Wage & Hour Issues for Employers

With the snow today, my colleague Michael Lavelle has this timely post about call in pay, particularly as it relates to weather-related jobs.  My thanks to Mick for this contribution, as always. 
The winter season brings more weather-related emergencies, and often requires maintenance employees or replacement staff to be on-call with beepers or cell phones. 
The wage-hour regulations for on-call situations are pretty straight-forward.  Employees "waiting to be engaged" are not on work time, although employees "engaged to be waiting" are. 
This means that if an employee’s on-call obligations are too strict – for example, he has to wait at a particular place, or it is virtually certain that he will be called in, maybe more than once – he must be paid to be waiting. 
If he able to use his time productively for personal reasons, only being required to carry a beeper or cell phone, he is not on working time.  
(For those interested in the actual federal regulatory reference, you can check out 29 CFR 785.17 of the Code of Federal Regulations.)
And what happens if the employee is called?
There are two situations:
  • If the called employee goes to his usual place of work, he is paid only for his actual time at work, as in his usual workday. 
  • If he is called to a customer’s location, and so goes a greater distance than his usual commute, he should also be paid for travel time. (29 CFR 785.36).
But what about incentives to induce an employee to accept, or at least not resent, the possibility of being called out in the middle of the night?
These are not required by law, but many employers, especially in 24-hour service industries like health care, have special on-call pay as part of their overall compensation plans. 
Some options are stipends, like $25 per day or $200 per week; premium pay such as overtime or even double-time regardless of whether the employee exceeded 40 hours in that week; or minimum pay regardless of the amount of time spent at work.  For salaried employees, a special bonus may be paid without destroying the employee’s exempt status.
What’s the Takeaway for Employers?
For employers with on-call needs, the bottom line as always is doing what is necessary to recruit and retain desirable employees, and to maintain employee morale.  A $50 minimum may be a small price to pay for having an employee come back to his workplace at 2:00 am, rather than telling the boss the next day that his dog ate his beeper.