A legislative committee this week removed a provision eliminating affirmative defenses from legislation governing sexual harassment prevention training.
Under current law, employers who train employees on sexual harassment prevention, adopt and enforce workplace policies, investigate complaints, and protect victims from retaliation, are not civilly liable for such incidents.
HB 7044, which the Labor and Public Employees Committee passed 9-5 in March, eliminated those defenses, exposing employers who have done everything they can to create a safe workplace to civil action for workplace conduct that's beyond their control.
The Judiciary Committee approved the amended bill. While the amendment is a significant improvement, the bill still contains a provision preventing employers from changing job conditions for an individual complaining of harassment without written consent.
This creates logistical problems for small employers attempting to balance the safety needs of the victim with the due process rights of the alleged harasser.
Small employers are less capable of transferring accused employees to another department, or dealing with an individual who claims multiple individuals in the department are engaging in harassment.
This provision is also contained in SB 3, which CBIA continues to raise as a concern with lawmakers.
Call Center Notice Bill Fails
The Judiciary Committee also overwhelmingly rejected legislation placing significant restrictions on companies with 50 or more Connecticut employees with a portion of their staff employed in a call center.
The legislation required any business planning to move parts of a call center operation out of the state or country to provide 100 days notice.
Failing to provide notice could result in a penalty of up to $10,000 per day for each day of notice less than 100 days.
The bill also impacted businesses that are state contractors or potential state contractors operating call centers.
If enacted, none of the call volume performed in relation to the state contract could be done by individuals outside Connecticut.
Significant concerns were raised about the bill during last month's public hearing before the Labor Committee.
"Have we reached the point that we now have to impose civil penalties on businesses leaving our state?" CBIA's Eric Gjede asked in his testimony to the committee.
"Would it not be more effective to continue to improve our economic and business climate so that businesses can afford to grow and stay here?"
While HB 7044 and SB 990 represent a fraction of the Labor Committee's problematic agenda this year, the Judiciary Committee's bipartisan response is refreshing, with lawmakers properly considering the adverse impact of these bills.