Many legislative proposals could impact several aspects of doing business in the state. Here is a review of the remaining significant workplace-related measures in the legislature.

Workers’ Compensation

SB 1074 calls for a medical fee schedule for hospitals and surgical centers to fairly settle medical charges in workers’ compensation cases. It’s a solution that will benefit both hospitals and employers, yet some hospitals are opposing a fee schedule. That’s because they prefer to continue charging whatever they want to and employers are obligated to pay those charges. But as Time magazine recently reported, hospital charges are routinely more—often 10 times more—than actual costs for medical services. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

SB 907 prevents employers from being able to manage the medical care their employees receive while out on workers’ compensation. It does this by setting unreachable and unreasonable timelines for employers to respond to required notices and obtain medical opinions. Based on analysis by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, this will increase workers’ comp costs by an estimated $258 million over the next five years. Another potential cost of SB 907 is the risk of an employee not receiving correct medical care, and developing a permanent disability as a result. This measure currently awaits action in the Senates.

SB 823 Under this bill awaiting action in the Senate, certain mental injuries occurring without an accompanying physical injury would be eligible for workers’ compensation. This measure would have a significant impact on municipalities in the state, so therefore it is meeting some resistance in the Senate. An amendment has been drafted to narrow the impact of this bill, but municipalities continue to have significant concerns.

Paid Sick Leave

SB 1007 The state Senate unanimously approved this measure that contains commonsense, pro-business reforms that will help employers administer the paid sick leave law.  It is now awaiting action in the House and we are encouraging legislators to take action on the bill as soon as possible. 

Minimum Wage

SB 387 As originally proposed by the Labor Committee, this bill would have increased the state’s minimum wage by $1.50 over two years with automatic increases thereafter.  Subsequently, it was reduced to an increase of $0.75 over two years, raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9. While this is not the right time for an increase in the minimum wage, the revised proposal is better than what was first proposed, and will be signed into law by the governor.   

Paid Family and Medical Leave 

HB 6553 CBIA continues to oppose this bill because it creates a task force to study the best way to develop a program that would pay employees who are out on family medical leave. While this will open the door another costly mandate on employers, the 23-member task force unfortunately will include only two representatives from the business community. Approved by the House, the bill awaits action in the Senate.     

Unemployment Compensation

HB 6452 Under this measure all employers are required to submit their quarterly wage reports electronically, beginning in 2014 unless they apply for a waiver.  Approved by the House, the bill currently awaits action in the Senate.   

HB 6451 This bill establishes fines for any employer that starts or acquires a business and fails to electronically notify the Labor Department within 30 days; or if the employer submits a tax and wage report without being provided their tax number. The House approved the bill and it now awaits action in the Senate. 

Noncompete Agreements

HB 6658 requires employers to provide a 10-day period for employees to seek a legal review of noncompete agreements.  If denied this review time, the employee would be able to sue the employer. CBIA has been working to find a solution agreeable to both the proponent of the bill and the business community. An amendment has been filed to reduce the length of the review period, but the proposal also contains some provisions of concern. HB 6658 awaits action in the House.

Direct Deposit of Wages

SB 906 requires employers who directly deposit employee’s wages into their accounts electronically “tag” these wages. The goal is to create an easier way to identify funds that are exempt by law from execution proceedings. However, wages are not exempt.  Now, proponents want to get them added as exemptions in the future-- but force employers to change their payroll software even before they achieve this goal.  It awaits action in the Senate.

Retirement Plans Mandate

SB 54 Under this bill, any employer with more than five employees that does not offer a retirement plan to its workers will be required to offer them a state plan, and assist in its administration. Essentially, the bill creates a taxpayer-subsidized competitor to Connecticut’s 10,000 employees – strong financial services sector. At this time, another amendment is being drafted and we will provide an update as it becomes known. The bill awaits action in the Senate.

CHRO

SB 1164 Several inadvertent mistakes in the drafting of the bill would have improperly expanded the authority of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). However, the mistakes were identified by the business community and subsequently corrected by the commission. However, the bill does contain some substantive changes to CHRO – including the requirement to file Schedule A documents under oath and allowing CHRO legal counsel to initiate a complaint without the former requirement that the commission vote upon it first. The bill awaits action in the Senate. 

Miscellaneous

SB 159 affects employer’s ability to investigate data breaches by employees, but as amended strikes a better balance between an employee’s right to privacy with business need to protect data.  The bill now awaits action in the House. 

HB 5713 This bill requires the state Department of Education (SDOE) to make available a curriculum about labor history and law, the collective bargaining process, and legal protections in the workplace. Essentially it requires taxpayer funds be spent to develop lesson plans about events already covered by most high school history classes.  It awaits action in the House.

CBIA will continue to provide updates on these measures as the session approaches adjournment at midnight on Wednesday, June 5.

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