capitoldas2Well, the Connecticut General Assembly ended earlier this week and, as predicted, it ended with a whimper and not a bang.  Many employment law proposals failed to receive votes, including those on minimum wage and Paid FMLA, leaving many employers (and the CBIA) breathing a bit of a sigh of relief.

I’ve previously recapped most of the bills here and here, so I’m only going to recap the session here in the interests of time.

  • The Governor is expected to sign a bill expanding the requirements for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. Again, I’ve recapped the measure here but this is probably the most significant bill to come out of the session regarding employers.
  • There will be no minimum wage hike and the introduction of Paid FMLA failed to get enough votes this term.  There is little doubt that the split in the Senate along party lines slowed momentum down for what was going to be the Democrat party’s signature achievement this session.
  • Also not getting votes this session was a bill that would have prohibited many employers from running credit checks on prospective employees and a bill that would required employers to give advance notice to employees about their work shifts.
  • Another bill that would change whistleblower protections in Connecticut also failed to clear the House.

Some of the other technical changes, to workers compensation or unemployment compensation, offer up a mixed bag. I’ve covered them in a prior post.

A special session is still on the way and it’s possible that some measures will get plopped into an “implementer” bill for the budget like it did a few years ago.  But my gut tells me that the budget is unlike to be used this way given the significant financial issues in play.  Nonetheless, employers should continue to watch for any developments in this area until the special session is closed.

If at first you succeed, try it again. 

Well, that may not be how the saying goes, but the first back-and-forth post between me and Nina Pirrotti, an employee-side attorney, was so well received that we’re back for another conversation. 

Today’s topic: What legislation are we both keeping our eyes out for at the Connecticut General Assembly?  

The Dialogue Begins

Dan Schwartz: So Nina, our first post was such a hit that I think we’re due for an encore.  Thanks for being up for this.

It has only bewn a few weeks, but it feels like we’re moving at warp speed on developments.  We could spend another post just on The Donald, sorry, Mr. President. Somehow I think we’re likely to talk about that again soon.

But let’s focus today on some of the legislative items we’re keeping an eye on, particularly in Connecticut. Each year, it seems like our General Assembly likes to roll out fresh employment law ideas.

Is there a particular bill that you’re keeping your eye on now from an employee-side perspective?

nina_t_pirrotti1-150x150Nina Pirrotti: I’m so glad you asked!   Yes, let me tell you about one bill that has been on my mind on the federal level (I am speaking about it at an ABA conference in sunny Puerto Vallarta really soon) and then I will give you a couple of highlights from our backyard.  

The federal bill that looms large for me right now (although concededly perhaps not as large as the prospect of sitting on the beach, tequila based beverage in hand) is the misleadingly named  Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (“LARA”) which would force judges to respond to Rule 11 motions in a particular manner. 

Rule 11 allows for the possibility of sanctions to be imposed on attorneys or parties who submit (or later advocate for) pleadings which have been filed for an improper purpose or which contain frivolous arguments or claims. 

While Rule 11 motions rear their ugly heads relatively rarely in litigation, a newly invigorated Republican majority in Congress has proposed LARA which would amend the sanctions provisions in Rule 11 to remove all judicial discretion – – regardless of the circumstances of the individual case- – in two critical respects. 

First it would require the court to sanction any attorney, law firm, or party who violates the rule.  Second it forces judges who find the rule has been violated to order the offending party to pay  the other party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.  Those in my world who oppose LARA say that there is no proof Rule 11 is not working in its current form, that the changes would burden the courts and that  its “once size fits all” mandatory sanctions would unfairly penalize employees in civil lawsuits.

Closer to home, two bills come to mind.  The first is a proposed modification of C.G.S.A. 31-51m, a statute which bars employers from retaliating against employees who report  employers’ unethical or legal wrongdoings to public bodies. 

The modification seeks to  protect employees who complain about such conduct internally or who refuse to participate in an activity they believe to be in violation of the law.   It also seeks to extend the timeline to bring an action under the law (employees now have only 90 days to file) and to provide for a greater array of damages if the employer violates the statute.

The second is a proposal to provide eligible employees with paid Family and Medical Leave Act leave.  The proposed legislation would require employees to contribute 1/2 of 1% of their wages to it (there would be no employer contribution) and employees cannot opt out it.   

We plaintiff employment lawyers would welcome both pieces of legislation as long overdue and reasonably tailored to protect Connecticut’s workforce.

What are your thoughts from the other side of the aisle, Dan?    Or is there other proposed legislation that has captured your attention?

Continue Reading The Dialogue: What Legislation We’re Keeping Our Eyes On

Here we go.

Last December, I talked about how a legislative proposal to bring paid family and medical leave to Connecticut was likely.

Turns out, not only was it likely, but that there would be a big public relations push on it as well.

The bill is still in its formative stages at the legislature, but the essence of the proposal is an employee-funded system with employers withholding a percentage of the employee’s pay.  The Hartford Courant reported on this push this week.

In yesterday’s CT News Junkie, Carolyn Treiss, the Executive Director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, posted a notable piece on why the time is right for paid family & medical leave.

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) and the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), two organizations that worked on the original FMLA legislation, are teaming up in leading the charge on this expanded version of family and medical leave, because women are still the primary caregivers in times of need. To be sure, paid leave would benefit everyone, regardless of gender. But the reality is that too many women of childbearing age see their careers derailed just as they are taking off. Women in their mid-20s to early 40s are the demographic employers seek most often, and yet the biological clock has its own imperatives. And what of women at the prime of their careers who must increasingly act on behalf of aging parents, or who suddenly find themselves dealing with an illness of their own (or that of a spouse)? It’s hard to “lean in” when there’s no employer-sponsored provision to lean against.

The CBIA has previously issued a report noting that this type of program would be similar to an unemployment compensation scheme — and very expensive to implement.

I’ll be talking about this and more at a presentation tonight at the Connecticut Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Committee meeting. My talk — really more of a discussion — will be on three “hot” items in employment law for 2015.  Hope to see you there.

For the rest of you, keep a close eye on this important legislative development this year.

 

The dust is still settling from the mad dash that is the end of the Connecticut General Assembly session. 

I’ll have more in the upcoming days as events warrant, but here’s a quick look at a few items that I’ve been tracking in recent weeks. 

  • A bill (HB 6658) restricting the use of non-compete agreements passed last night. But it is a watered-down version of the previous bill.    As summarized by the OLR: “This bill voids certain noncompete agreements between an employer and an employee made, renewed, or extended on or after October 1, 2013, unless before entering into the agreement, the employer provides the employee with (1) a written copy of the agreement and (2) at least seven days, and more if reasonable, to consider the merits of entering into the agreement.” 

    The important caveat is that this applies only when “(1) an employer is acquired by or merges with another employer and (2) as a result of the acquisition or merger, an employee’s continued employment is conditioned on the employee entering into a noncompete agreement.”  

    The bill allows an employee to waive his or her right to have a noncompete agreement rendered void pursuant to the bill by signing a separate document that describes the right he or she is waiving before entering into the agreement.If signed by the governor, it would become effective October 1, 2013.  For employers with mergers or acquisitions, this should be added to any due diligence checklist and any list of closing documents to be considered. 

  •  Two bills — to amend the state’s CHRO-related statutes, and to amend the paid sick leave bill to “fix” certain items did not receive a final vote (here and here) before the session ended. Passage had been expected in recent days, but I’ve heard unconfirmed reports of illnesses and last-minute opposition that did in the bills. Regardless of the reasons, those bills did not pass in their native form. 
  • A bill that would restrict employers from asking for the social media passwords of their employees also did not receive a final vote
  • A bill (HB 6553) to study  the “feasibility of establishing an insurance program to provide short-term benefits to workers who are unable to work due to (1) pregnancy or the birth of a child, (2) a non-work-related illness or injury, or (3) the need to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent” did pass the General Assembly. I’ve recapped the bill previously
  • A bill that would have significantly expanded the free speech rights of private-sector employees failed to receive final passage before the session ended

Note: This is by no means a complete list of bills under consideration or that have passed; it’s just a preliminary run through of some of the bills I had been following.   Be sure to check with your local counsel or the CBIA if there is a particular bill that you have been following or concerned about.