Gov. Ned Lamont signed a controversial bill July 13 mandating that employers rehire laid off employees based on seniority rather than skill, merit, or needs—forcing non-unionized private sector businesses to adopt union workforce rules. 

The governor ignored calls to veto SB 658, one of many poorly crafted bills put forward by the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee during the 2021 General Assembly session.

CNBC's 2021 America's Top States for Business ranks Connecticut's cost of doing business sixth highest in the country.

The bill contains many inconsistencies in its definitions.

It can be read to mandate a variety of new administrative requirements on certain employers provided they directly, or through a third party like a temp agency or contractor, have individuals on their premises providing contractual janitorial or maintenance services, security services, or food services.

The legislation appears to treat individuals providing these services as the employees of the owner of the commercial, office, or retail building, regardless of whether they are actually employees by another business or temp agency.

Mandates

As a result of this legally fictional, assumed employment relationship, property owners face a variety of new mandates related to the rehiring employees and any disruption in seasonal work the individuals providing those services experienced between March 10, 2020 and May 1, 2022.

For example:

  • If individuals performing contractual janitorial or maintenance services, security services, or food services experienced a layoff between those dates, their new employer is required to submit an affidavit to the state Department of Labor stating the reason they were laid off. 
  • If the same or a similar position becomes available, the employer may be required to notify each of the laid off individuals that provided those services, in writing and via text message, that a job is available. If the position is one where the individual could be qualified if given the same training as a new hire, the employer would also need to notify the individual of this opportunity. If more than one laid off employee is qualified, all must be notified of the position but the one with the greatest length of service with the employee must get the job offer first. 
  • If the employer chooses to rehire that individual, it needs to be at the same classification or job title with substantially the same job duties and compensation, at or near the same employment site. 
  • The employer has to give the employee five days to determine whether to accept the position. If that individual provides a doctor's note stating they cannot accept it due to contracting COVID-19, the employer will need to continue to offer available jobs to that employee until the expiration of the public health emergency. 
  • Once hired, the employee needs to be permitted to work for no less than 30 days, unless there is cause for termination. 
  • These employer requires apply even when the “employer” sells their business or relocates the business.

Civil Penalties

Any violation of these rules on the part of the employer allows the employees to bring a civil action in the superior court. 

Despite the lack of clarity in the bill, what is clear is that this bill imposes collective bargaining type hiring restrictions on non-union businesses in certain industries, or the third parties that hire those businesses.

It is a continuation of the effort to remove at-will employment relationships in the state of Connecticut, and goes as far as to create fictional employment relationships to achieve those goals. 

Bills like SB 658 only drive up Connecticut's high employer costs while doing little to improve perceptions of the state's business climate.

This ill-defined mandate narrowly passed both chambers of the legislature in the final hours of the legislative session.

In the House, 17 Democrats joined all present Republicans in opposing the measure, which passed 75-70. Five Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition in the Senate, where the bill was approved 19-17.

Connecticut has the sixth highest cost of doing business in the country based on CNBC's 2021 America's Top States for Business.

Legislation like SB 658 only drives up those costs while doing little to improve perceptions of the state's business climate.


For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede (860.480.1784) | @egjede.