Election Day is nearly upon us.  Much like I did two years ago, it’s time to recap the rules for employers regarding the election.  The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for everyone to vote for their favorite candidate…or at least the one that they dislike the least.  You can find out where you should vote at this easy to use link.

Any Time Off Required?

One question that arises from time to time: Do employers in Connecticut need to provide employees with time off to vote?

Many states offer this protection.   However, Connecticut isn’t one of them.

What does that mean? It means employers can insist that employees vote during non-working hours and have no legal obligation to provide time off to employees to vote. 

However, a reminder to employees about the polls being open and that they should vote either before or after their particular shift or work hours is certainly appropriate.

No “Threats” To Employees

Connecticut does have one peculiar law, however, that prevents employers from interfering with an employee’s vote. In fact, earlier this year, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 9-365 was amended to make interference with the election a Class D felony:

Any person who (1) during the period that is sixty days or less prior to any election, municipal meeting, school district election or school district meeting, attempts to influence the vote of any operative in his or her employ by threats of withholding employment from him or her or by promises of employment, or (2) dismisses any operative from his or her employment on account of any vote he or she has given at any such election or meeting shall be guilty of a class D felony.

Despite a version of this law being on the books for nearly 60 years, don’t expect to find much, if any caselaw or commentary on it.  Yet, employers should still avoid the appearance of suggesting how to vote to employees. 

Remind Employees of “Bill of Rights”

Employers can feel free to remind employees of their “Bill of Rights” for voting.   Connecticut set up these rules and summarized them in a document here.  Among the more noteworthy rules that employees should know of is their right to vote when they are “in line” at the time the polls close. 

Other Tidbits

Reviewing the state’s laws on elections also reveals some other interesting quirks and trivial details.  For example, voting areas must have have a United States flag on the wall (Connecticut’s flag is optional), and a telephone. (And no United Nations Flags are allowed.)

The new legislative session at the Connecticut General Assemblybegan last week and the Labor & Public Employee Committee wasted no time setting an agenda for bills for discussion in this short legislative session.

2012 Legislative Session Begins

At a committee meeting last Thursday, the Committee discussed a variety of items to be discussed and proposed as bills. 

Among the notable items that received a favorable nod to drafting:

  • An Act Concerning Discriminatory Hiring Toward the Unemployed
  • An Act Concerning State Employees and Bullying in the Workplace
  • An Act Concerning Family and Medical Leave for Certain Municipal Employees
  • An Act Concerning a Study on Changes to the Pay Frequency Laws
  • Act Allowing Employers to Pay Wages Using Payroll Cards

You can follow the Committee’s progress here.  The CBIA also provides a weekly recap of the events at the legislature here.   

After last year’s battle over paid sick leave, this session is not expected to be as bruising but as noted above, there is still plenty of things the legislature can get involved with.  In a short session, we’ll have to wait and see how much really gets done. 

If the legislature wants to do something unusual, then perhaps it can revisit my list from July 2011 of outdated employment laws that could be considered for repeal.  Of course, it’s easier to add laws than to repeal them, but hope springs eternal.

The debate on the bill requiring employees to offer paid sick leave to employees continued into Thursday evening. But the first votes on various amendments to the bill (including one that now becomes the bill) seem to indicate that its passage is likely.

The operative bill under debate now is House Amendment A, which passed 82-59, and is a substitute for the entire bill.  

Republicans are now introducing various amendments to the bill which mainly remove various provisions. Many seem likely to fail given the strong majority that the Democrats have in the House.

I’ll have a full recap of this landmark bill in the morning.  If passed later this evening, the bill would move to the Senate for a vote.  It’s unclear whether the Governor would veto this measure.  In the interim, CT News Junkie has been providing other news updates as well.  

One of Connecticut’s many nicknames is the "Constitution State", so named for the state’s adoption of the first state Constitution. (Delaware holds the distiction of the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution for those history buffs).

But on the ballot in two weeks is a question asking if the state should hold its first Constitutional convention in over 40 years.   For employers and others, serious consideration should be given to the question and I suggest the Ct Votes No website for information on the reasons why voting "no" is a good idea.

Among the possible changes that could come about at a Constitutional convention — a voter referendum/ballot initiative law or elimination of same-sex marriages.  But perhaps most troubling, constitutional convention delegates can propose anything without citizens or even our legislators having a vote in the final outcome.  And when Constitutional Guru Wes Horton opposes it, you know something is troubling with the referendum.

The Connecticut Law Tribune’s Advisory Board (subscription required) has this editorial telling voters to vote no:

 There is no similar circumstance in Connecticut in 2008. Without some overwhelming need for a constitutional convention, such a convention could easily be dominated by single-issue special interest groups. If zealous groups do not get what they want from the legislature or the governor or the courts, they could put the issue to the convention. ….

 

Stability and tradition and established rules must occasionally yield when a major upheaval in society creates a need for a new or radically reordered system. … The constitution currently in effect was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1965, called because the traditional legislative election system in Connecticut was clearly out of compliance with the federal one-person, one-vote requirement.

 

Representative democracy is messy, it can be slow, and it can be vulnerable to special interests, but it is not accidental that this country is a beacon in the world today in part because of the strength and stability of its political and judicial institutions. But a constitutional convention can trump all that. This is why such a convention should be called only when a crisis requires it. No crisis requires it, so voters should vote “No.”•

There have been several Connecticut and legal-related blogs discussing this including A Public Defender (here) and (here), the New Haven Independent with a great report (here).

For employers, this issue — on its face — may seem wholly unrelated to them. It’s not.  One of the most likely outcomes of a Constitutional convention is a ballot initiative/voter referendum that again — on its face — seems innocuous as well. But a look at the issues on the ballots in other states shows that voters are being asked.  For example, Colorado had various constitutional amendments on its ballot (later withdrawn) that would have, for example, protected all employees from termination except for "just cause".

For full information on how this upcoming election can affect state businesses, the CBIA’s website — www.ctbizvotes.com — is a great place to start.  (For prior posts on election day issues for employers, see here and here.) 

Nearly eight months ago, I asked the question: Will the Americans with Disabilities Act Be Amended?  

At that point, I indicated that an ADA Restoration Act Bill of 2007 was not yet a "hot topic" but as election season heated up, we could see some action on some proposed amendments.  There have been some followup posts both in January and again earlier this month.

Now, the answer my prior question, I think the answer is likely "yes". 

Within the last few weeks, a compromise bill (now titled the ADA Amendments Act of 2008) has been fashioned and on Wednesday, it passed the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly (402-17).   All Connecticut representatives voted in favor of it.   The bill (H.R. 3195), can be downloaded here,  

The Workplace Horizons blog and the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog have some initial feedback and reaction to the bill, as well as Disability Law 2.0. The New York Times had this mainstream report.  For additional blogs from advocacy groups, see the American Association of People with Disabilities blog and the NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) blog

So, what would the ADA Amendment Acts do?

On its face, it strives to overturn various U.S. Supreme Court cases that the bill’s sponsors believe narrowed the ADA too much.  Thus, the bill broadens definitions of various terms.  For example, it defines the phrase "substantially limits" to mean "materially restricts".  It also features some aspects seen as "for employers" such as limiting "regarded as" claims as impairs that last or are expected to last for more than six months.

As Jon Hyman notes:

The biggest changes, however, come to the definition of "disability" itself. In Sutton v. United Airlines, the Supreme Court held that whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity is to be determined with reference to the effects of mitigating measures on the impairment. For example, a diabetic who has the condition under control with insulin might not meet the definition of "disability." These amendments expressly reverse that ruling:

  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
  • The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity is to be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures, such as medications, equipment, assistive technology, auxiliary devices, learned behavioral, or adaptive neurological modifications.
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses, however, can still be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

There is no date yet for a vote in the Senate.  As the term continues and it becomes more likely that the bill is going to pass, I’ll provide an update with additional details about the proposed provisions.

For now, employers should stay tuned for future legislative developments and take an opportunity now to understand the scope of the ADA. If it is passed, the bill may make it more difficult for employers to get "summary judgment" in ADA cases and is sure to raise a whole new set of issues related to the definition of "disability".  For employers in Connecticut, ADA amendments could be particularly tricky because of the risk that courts in Connecticut (which tend to follow the ADA lead) will use the amendments to interpret our state disability discrimination law, which has developed somewhat differently.

One down, one to go.

The Connecticut House voted this afternoon to override Gov. Rell’s veto of the minimum wage bill.  

The bill now moves to the Senate this afternoon for immediate consideration. 

For a text of the bill under the consideration, you can view the bill here

As I’ve noted in earlier posts, if the veto is overriden, the minimum wage in Connecticut would increase to $8.00/hour effective January 1, 2009 and $8.25/hour effective January 1, 2010.

Update 3:10 p.m.: The Hartford Courant reports that the vote was razor-thin as expected: 102-39, one more than needed. 

24 votes are now needed to pass the Senate and the original bill passed with 25 votes, with 2 Republicans voting along with all 23 Senate Democrats.  The Courant now predicts passage.

The State Senate late yesterday approved a bill that would increase the minimum wage in 2009 and 2010.  The bill (H.B. 5105), had previously passed the House and now moves to Governor Rell for her signature.courtesy morgue file "money" public domain

CT News Junkie reports that Gov. Rell has some reservations about the bill:

Gov. M. Jodi Rell is still uncertain about whether she would sign it. Rell’s spokesman Adam Liegeot said in an emailed statement, “While the governor understands the needs of minimum wage workers, she does not want to take any action that will negatively impact businesses and jobs in Connecticut, especially during this troubled economy. Governor Rell will take her time and review this bill closely before deciding what action to take.”

The bill, if signed, will increase in the minimum wage from $7.65 an hour to $8 an hour starting in January 2009 and $8.25 an hour in January 2010.  Assuming a 40-hour-work week, the average wage increase for those making minimum wage will be a little over $700 annually.

For most employers in the state, the bill will not have any impact because many workers receive more than the minimum wage.  For others who rely on workers at minimum wage, the bill could have a real impact; $700 or so per worker per year could affect those with thin profit margins.  However, others will certainly be able to afford the modest increase.

Although the bill did not have full bipartisan support, it did pass the General Assembly overwhelmingly. I would expect the Governor to sign the bill because a veto would likely be overturned by the General Assembly.

The U.S. House of Representatives, as expected, passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act this afternoon.  The bill, which had already been approved by the Senate, now moves on to the White House, where the President is expected to sign the bill.  The bill’s summary and status can be found here.The roll call vote at 12:40 p.m. can be found here.   It passed overwhelmingly.  (Guess which Representative opposed it.)

The New York Times, through an AP report, has the immediate coverage:

Companies would no longer be able to use genetic information like a person’s predisposition for breast cancer, sickle cell or diabetes to make insurance or job decisions under a bill passed by Congress on Thursday.

The House voted 414-1 for the legislation a week after it passed the Senate on a 95-0 vote. The bill would bar health insurance companies from using genetic information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility. Similarly, employers could not use genetic information in hiring, firing or promotion decisions.

As I noted earlier this week, this bill is not expected to have a significant impact in Connecticut where there is already legislation on the books prohibiting discrmination based on genetic information.