Business Advocates Block Numerous Workplace Mandates
The 2019 General Assembly session was marked by numerous workplace mandates, many generated by the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee.
“This legislative session was an extremely challenging one for businesses, especially small businesses, one the state cannot afford to repeat if we want a strong economy and robust job growth,” said CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan.
“We expected a difficult session given that many progressive legislators ran on platforms that conflicted with a number of the business community’s goals.”
HB 5004 raises the hourly minimum wage to $11 in October 2019, $12 in September 2020, $13 in August 2021, $14 in July 2022, and $15 in June 2023.
These increases will be followed by automatic raises each year beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
There is a provision that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to be paid 85% of the minimum wage for the first 90 days on the job provided they are not legally emancipated.
SB 1 taxes every Connecticut private sector employee
beginning Jan. 1, 2021, deducting 0.5% of salary to fund the paid FMLA program.
In return, employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave, at 95% of pay, capped at 60 times the minimum wage ($900 when the minimum wage reaches $15).
Employers are required to continue providing nonwage benefits to employees on leave for up to three months each year.
CBIA fought strongly against this measure, eliciting some changes to help reduce the wage replacement rate and the potential for fraud.
Harassment Prevention Training
CBIA’s advocacy efforts helped make a significant difference with a proposal overhauling the state’s workplace harassment statutes.
SB 3 changes existing law that applies to business with 50 or more employees to require businesses with three or more employees provide sexual harassment prevention training to every employee.
CBIA fought to ensure that this new requirement could be satisfied by a free online course developed by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
The bill also originally prohibited employers from making any working condition changes to an employee who complained about sexual harassment without their consent.
Republican House members helped business advocates by amending the bill to address that provision and another that allowed CHRO investigators to make unannounced workplace inspections.
While the legislature approved several damaging mandates, CBIA and allies successfully stopped a litany of other anti-business legislation.
Political matters was so broadly defined that it could include not just pending legislation or regulation, but civic or community engagement—such as sponsoring a local Little League team.
CBIA argued that such prohibitions were preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, although a formal opinion by the sitting Attorney General suggested SB 440 was not preempted.
The bills were not called in either chamber.
SB 764, which required employees in the mercantile, restaurant, hospitality, or nursing or residential care industries to be paid for half the duration of any scheduled shift that was canceled or altered without 72 hours notice, was also stopped by CBIA.
HB 7044 eliminated affirmative defenses used by employers in sexual harassment claims. The bill was amended as a result of CBIA’s efforts, and was never called in the House.
Likewise, CBIA also stopped HB 6913, which placed new restrictions on covenants not to compete, including ensuring they only apply to individuals making twice the minimum wage and rendering them unenforceable if made in anticipation of the sale of a business, the employment is terminated by the employer, or if the employee terminates employment for good cause attributable to the employer.
CBIA successfully advocated against SB 358, which required that employers provide up to four hours for employees to vote on election day.
HB 6933 met a similar fate. It required the Department of Labor to study whether employers should be required to disclose to job applicants the salary ranges for advertised vacant employment positions.
CBIA also helped stop two bills that demanded business model changes from certain industries.
SB 990 required businesses with 50 or more full or part time employees working at a call center to provide 100 days notice to the labor department for moving operations out of state or face a penalty of $10,000 for each day of notice under 100 days.
It also required any business providing call center operations as a part of a state contract to have all of those employees located in the state.
SB 989 mandated transportation network companies change their driver reimbursement rates in a way that would have negatively impacted both drivers and customers.
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