SB 371 Is Preempted by Federal Law

A bill in the state Senate would create a “guilty-until-you-prove-yourself-innocent” presumption against employers who are accused of retaliating against immigrant employees making labor and workplace law complaints.  

SB 371 imposes fines, losses of licenses, and other penalties for any employer that takes an immigration-related action within 90 days against an employee who has asserted a workplace complaint. The employer’s action automatically is deemed retaliation. 

The proposal’s aim is to protect immigrants, but it has at least four major flaws.

First, it’s preempted by federal law. The federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 controls all aspects of immigration employment – especially enforcement. That’s why, for example, Arizona’s attempt to unilaterally enforce certain immigration laws was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2012.   

Second, SB 371 assumes a business is guilty of retaliating against an immigrant employee until the employer proves itself innocent. Thus, innocent will be forced to expend considerable financial resources and effort defending against meritless claims.

Third, SB 371 is redundant with employee retaliation protection laws already on the books in Connecticut. Nearly every chapter of Connecticut’s labor and employment law already contain provisions protecting employees from employer retaliation. For example, 31-69b of the statutes protects all employees who make complaints related to the wages owed to them by employers.  Likewise, 31-379 protects all employees who make complaints related to safety and health in the workplace. 

Fourth, SB 371 inadvertently makes the case that Connecticut is unfriendly to business. Connecticut’s economy still needs to recover more strongly from the recession, and our state needs to climb up in national competitiveness rankings. This bill will help neither effort.  

Additional protections found in SB 371 just for immigrant workers are unnecessary. Lawmakers should take no further action on SB 371.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede at 860.244.1931 | eric.gjede@cbia.com | @egjede