Appropriations Considers Bill That’s Costly to Employers, Municipalities
The General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee this week referred to the Appropriations Committee SB 929, which expands whistleblower laws in ways that will subject employers and municipalities to potentially unprecedented liability and compliance costs.
The bill broadens the circumstances under which an employee can bring an action against an employer.
It adds protection for an employee who objects or refuses to participate in activity he or she “reasonably believes” constitutes a violation or suspected violation of any state or federal law or regulation, any municipal ordinance or regulation, or any court order.
It also extends from 90 to 180 days the time an employee may sue if discharged or disciplined in violation of the statute after exhausting all available administrative remedies.
Finally, the bill establishes new penalties in civil actions for violations of the statute.
In addition to reinstatement and back pay, employees may obtain compensatory damages, future economic damages, punitive damages, and have record of discipline removed from personnel files—if the employer’s conduct was willful or intentional.
Current law strikes the right balance between protecting and employee from retaliation for whistle blowing while also protecting an employer from frivolous and baseless complaints.
Send an email to Appropriations Committee members to let them know your opinion on SB 929.
Costly Workers Compensation Proposal
Another bill voted out of the Judiciary Committee last week is also likely heading to the Appropriations Committee due to its potentially massive cost.
HB 6666 negates the “exclusive remedy” piece of the Connecticut Workers Compensation Act, and will lead to increased costs for insurers and employers.
The act was enacted in 1913 as a “grand bargain” between employers and employees to address work-related injuries and the delays in resolving claims.
In exchange, workers receive quicker access to medical care for their injuries through the system, even if their own negligence caused the injury.
In return, injured workers cannot sue their employer for damages in Superior Court—hence the “exclusive remedy”—nor receive damages for pain and suffering.
The bill would allow a claimant to sue an insurer or third-party administrator for damages for unreasonable contest or undue delay.
Allowing workers to file a separate action in another forum where the fact finders are not familiar with workers compensation practices only creates lengthy litigation and leads to increased costs for Connecticut employers and insurers.
HB 6666 negates the exclusive remedy part of the Workers Compensation Act, and will lead to increased costs for insurers and employers.
The system already addresses instances where payment of an injured worker's lost time benefits or medical treatment is delayed by the fault or neglect of an employer/insurer or their third party administrator.
The injured worker may seek compensation or redress for an employer's or insurer's unreasonable contest or undue delay by asking a workers compensation commissioner for an emergency hearing.
The commissioner can order that benefits and/or medical treatment be paid immediately and that the employer also pay interest, attorney's fees, and civil fines for the delay.
Workers compensation commissioners are adept at determining any cases in which an insurer or third-party administrator has unjustifiably and unreasonably contested a claim or improperly delayed payment of benefits.
Commissioners have the knowledge and power to quickly right any wrongs. More than 100 years of success with the workers compensation system should not be thrown away.
Product Liability Change
HB 7194 eliminates a workers compensation requirement that a claimant not be entitled to compensation under the Connecticut workers compensation statutes when the claimant alleges that harm occurred during the useful sale life of the product.
It allows individuals who are receiving workers compensation to also sue under a product's liability theory if he or she can prove the injury occurred during the product's useful sale life.
It was voted out of the Judiciary Committee and is awaiting action on the House calendar.
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