Advocacy Efforts Defeat Costly Workplace Mandate Bills
Employer groups once again successfully blocked many of the harmful mandates proposed by the Labor and Public Employees Committee this session.
CBIA’s advocacy on behalf of its membership was supported by moderate Republicans and Democrats and new committee leadership willing to engage with all stakeholders to find reasonable solutions.
That bipartisanship and collaboration did not sit particularly well with progressive lawmakers, with business community efforts to reach compromises on issues invariably rejected.
“Connecticut is among the costliest places in the country to run a business and this session again featured numerous bills that would make that situation worse,” CBIA’s Eric Gjede said.
“We’re grateful that lawmakers from both parties were willing to reject these mandates, which do nothing to address the labor shortage crisis or help small businesses compete.”
As with every year, advocacy efforts in the Labor Committee are measured not on what bills passed, but rather what legislation failed:
- HB 6859: Required employers in the retail, food service, hospitality or long-term healthcare industries with 500 or more employees or more than 30 locations to provide 14 days advanced notice to certain employees of work schedules and attempt to provide employees with requested days of the week and number of hours. While a priority for many in the legislature, the bill is so problematic that even some progressive lawmakers couldn’t bring themselves to support it.
- SB 1177: Eliminated the subminimum wage in the state, also known as the tip credit, and created one minimum wage.
- SB 1178: One of two proposals that expanded Connecticut paid sick leave law to (1) cover all private sector employers and employees; (2) broaden the range of family members employees may use leave for; (3) increase rate at which employees accrue leave; (4) broaden reasons employees may use leave; and (5) increase the maximum amount of hours, from 40 to 80 hours, an employee may accrue.
- HB 6668: Modified the state’s paid sick leave law to require all employers with 11 or more employees to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave to all employees and employers with 10 or fewer employers to provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave to all employees. Also speeds up the rate by which sick leave is accumulated and can be used by employees.
- SB 1179: Amended the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act to (1) include tribal enterprises and transit districts, and (2) prohibit disability benefits from being offset by benefits received under such programs. The bill allowed workers to receive nearly their entire salaries while on leave and likely caused many employers to drop short term disability coverage for employees.
- SB 1180: As usual, the committee proposed a bill that placing significant new restrictions and costs on rideshare and delivery driver firms. The bill was ultimately turned into a task force to study the issues impacting the industry.
- HB 6792: Holds a contractor liable for the unpaid wages of a subcontractor, at any tier, that performs any portion of work within the scope of the contractor’s construction contract.
- SB 152: Created rebuttable presumptions of employer retaliation if an employer takes any adverse employment action within 90 days of an employee inquiring about their performance metrics. Unfortunately, this bill was aimed at one major online retailer and impacted any business with a warehouse. Fortunately, it didn’t make it across the finish line.
- HB 6594: As drafted, the bill invalidated noncompete agreements unless a variety of conditions are met, including, the employee is not a salaried worker, the employee subjectively believes employment ended because of good cause attributable to the employer, the employee doesn’t make at least three times the minimum wage, or an independent contractor is not making at least five times the minimum wage. CBIA offered a compromise that banned such agreements in the retail and restaurant industries—addressing the reasonable concerns of those who testified at the public hearing. Instead, the bill died without action.
- SB 938: Considered by many to be the committee’s most egregious bill, it allowed striking workers to collect unemployment benefits after a period of two consecutive weeks striking despite meeting none of the eligibility requirements for receiving benefits. Frustrated union leadership pushed hard for this bill and were nearly successful. CBIA’s grassroots advocacy helped stop the bill.
- HB 6273: Required employers to disclose salary ranges and benefit summaries on public and internal job postings. This bill was frustrating to the business community as it supported a 2021 law that required employers to disclose salary ranges either at the time of offering the job to the applicant or when asked by the applicant. This bill imposed significant penalties on employers that failed to list salary and benefits, and will have resulted in the loss of opportunities for both employers and potential employees.
- HB 6285: Made it a discriminatory practice for an employer to ask an employee if they were ever a member of a union. This bill essentially made union members a protected class under the law.
- SB 489: Prohibited an employer from mandating an employee work more than six consecutive days without a day off during the six-day period. It not only posed public health and safety risks in the event of an emergency, but was an effort to undermine collectively bargained working conditions at a major Connecticut employee that pays premium pay to employees during critical operational periods.
And sometimes bills are so bad they can not even garner the votes within the Labor Committee itself, like HB 6462.
That proposal required employers with over 500 employees in Connecticut, or franchisors with franchisees that collectively employed at least 500 people, to pay a quarterly fee based on the number of employees earning less than $20 per hour.
Approved Workplace Bills
The following bills were approved by both House and Senate and are awaiting the governor’s signature:
- HB 6549: Implements Department of Labor recommendations by modifying and repealing obsolete provisions and statutes relevant to the agency.
- SB 1124: Requires the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services to conduct a study regarding the hiring practices for state service.
- SB 805: Requires that the state labor department study data breaches and false unemployment claims.
- HB 6552: Implements the recommendations of the state Comptroller concerning the administration of the Connecticut Retirement Security Program, allowing partnership with the labor department for enforcement, to pool resources with other jurisdictions, and requiring employers to provide an annual notice of the program to employees.
- SB 228: Allows striking workers to purchase their own health insurance on the state-run exchange during a labor dispute.
- SB 984: Modifies the process for hiring state employees.
- SB 1123: Includes residential construction in the existing prevailing wage contract rates.
In addition to these key items, dozens of other bills originating in the Labor Committee also died on the vine.
CBIA leadership on labor and employment issues resulted in a very successful legislative session.
However, CBIA member companies that vocalized their opposition against these harmful measures helped solidify moderate lawmakers’ positions and win the day.
This is testament to the importance of forging relationships with lawmakers and having the courage to stand up to those trying to harm Connecticut employers.
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