Labor Committee Agenda Sparks Employer Concerns

Issues & Policies

If a key committee’s first meeting of the 2021 General Assembly session is any indication, Connecticut employers may have more than the coronavirus to worry about in the coming months.

While it is too early for the initial drafts of the Labor and Public Employees Committee‘s proposals to be released, many share identical titles to concepts raised in past legislative sessions—a troubling sign.

Labor Committee chairs Sen. Julie Kushner and Rep. Robyn Porter
Labor committee co-chairs Sen. Julie Kushner and Rep. Robyn Porter pictured during the 2020 legislative session.

In addition, the committee will move forward with legislation expanding workers’ compensation to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness.

The measure creates a rebuttable presumption of coverage that shifts the burden to the employer and its insurer to prove an employee did not acquire the virus at work.

Last July, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order deeming that any essential worker that worked in a workplace between March 10 and May 20, and tested positive or was diagnosed with COVID-19 within three weeks of those dates, is presumed to have contracted the virus in the workplace.

Lamont said Jan. 22 he opposes such a broad measure as the committee is proposed, noting that when similar legislation came up last spring, “we greatly limited the scope of the claims and made sure that you filed a claim during a limited period of time.”

Committee co-chairs Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) and Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) said the proposed bill will also cover hazardous pay, worker safety, healthcare, and personal protective equipment.

There were twenty-one items on the committee’s first agenda.

None of these items are fully drafted, so the summaries below are either inferred from the title, or have been the subject of identically titled bills in at least one or more prior sessions.

An Act Concerning Call Centers and Notice of Closures

In prior years, this bill attempted to impose a $10,000 per day fine for each day less than 100 days notice a call center informs the state Department of Labor that it intends to leave Connecticut, or eliminate or shift a portion of its call center workforce out of state.

An employer with a contract to provide call center services with the state will be required to locate all those operators within Connecticut.

This bill discourages technological innovation that provides better service to customers.

More importantly, it strongly discourages businesses from coming to a state where they will be subject to civil penalties if they ever attempt to leave. 

An Act Concerning Network Transportation Drivers 

This bill is once again the committee’s attempt to micromanage the ride sharing industry and force it to abandon their dynamic and incentive based driver payment systems.

That’s the very systems put in place to ensure that no matter what time of day or where you are located, there will be drivers there to provide safe rides for passengers. 

An Act Concerning Workers’ Rights (Non-Compete) 

While the scope of this legislation is unclear, the committee typically attacks the use of non-compete agreements in some way every year.

Most recently, these highly regulated agreements were regulated in the homecare industry.

The result on the industry and its clients has been devastating. Homecare providers go through great expense to screen and train employees and then match them up to a client.

Employees build a relationship with the client and attempt to make a deal to work directly for the client and cut out the agency—often under the table.

The agency loses an employee they have invested in and their client.

Further, when things go wrong, clients often find themselves unknowingly legally liable for unemployment and workers’ compensation claims.

An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record 

While details remain unknown at the present time, this bill traditionally placed additional restrictions on the use of criminal background checks for employees.

An Act Concerning the Disclosure of a Salary Range for a Vacant Position

Requires that employers post the salary range for any vacant employment position.

This discourages conversations between employers and prospective employees that are exceptionally qualified who may be able to negotiate higher salaries from an employer because of their unique skills or background. 

Other Proposals

The following measures continue to attack the already struggling homecare industry:

  • An Act Concerning Expansion of Paid Sick Days/Domestic Workers Coverage 
  • An Act Concerning Domestic Workers Wage and Hours Enforcement

The following bills are reactions to the current pandemic and the many workers that now telecommute to work each day: 

  • An Act Concerning COVID-19 Relief 
  • An Act Concerning COVID-19 
  • Proposed HB 5198: An Act Concerning Reimbursement of Certain Expenses Incurred by Employees During the Course of Their Employment
  • An Act Concerning Requiring Adequate Equipment and Reimbursement for Employees Working from Home

These titles are new this year, and thus we are unsure of what impact they may have on Connecticut businesses: 

  • An Act Concerning On-Time Payment of Wages
  • An Act Concerning Managers’ Salary Issues

Union Measures

Additional proposals involve union issues, or the unionization of the remaining state or municipal employees that are not currently subject to a collective bargaining agreement.

About 11% of the total state employee population is not already unionized.

A bill aimed at probate court system attempts to unionize the typical one staff assistant position in each probate judge’s office.

Another proposal targets the cannabis industry, helping recreational marijuana advocates entice organized labor and the progressive organizations they fund to help push for legalization in Connecticut. 

The last item in this category deals with the impending “silver tsunami” of state employees that will become eligible for retirement in the next two to three years.

State employee unions insist these individuals should be replaced on a one-for-one basis, despite the potential for streamlining state services, maintaining or improving quality through the adoption of technology, while saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually. 

It is still early in the legislative session and additional measures impacting employers and the state’s economy will be raised by the labor committee.

While the state Capitol is still closed to the public, CBIA will monitor the committee and provide frequent updates on their progress.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede (860.244.1931) | @egjede


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