Labor and Workplace: Economy Shapes Quieter Year
With the state’s economy and overall business climate showing little improvement this year, legislators approved only a few labor and employment-related proposals that impact Connecticut employers.
On so many critical issues, the active participation of CBIA member companies, along with coalitions of business organizations and other key partners, was instrumental in helping lawmakers understand how the proposed bills would impact employers and their employees.
However, several items did make it through that will have an impact on businesses in the upcoming year. Here is a quick review of the legislation most affecting Connecticut businesses, including proposals that passed and those that fell short.
Employers successfully rallied against a measure (HB 6667) that tried to overturn employers’ court-affirmed right to manage employees’ speech made while the employees are on duty (while upholding this right for state and local governments, however).
Businesses also helped moderate HB 6658, which as approved requires employers that acquire or merge with another employer–and require the employees of the second business to sign a noncompete agreement as a condition of continued employment–to provide a seven-day period for a legal review of the noncompete agreement. If not, the noncompete agreement will be void.
Other proposals failing to win approval included those that would have:
- Required a statewide curriculum for the teaching of labor history and the collective bargaining process in public schools – despite the fact that most schools already provide instruction on this subject (HB 5713).
- Allowed any job candidate whose application is rejected, or employee who is terminated, due to an employer’s alleged reliance on erased criminal history to bring a civil claim against the employer. (SB 908)
Another approved proposal,SB 910 (PA 13-176), requires employers to provide employees with access and the right to copy their personnel files within seven days of the receipt of a written request. Requests from former employees must be honored within 10 days of receipt of a written request.
In order to conform with federal law, Connecticut was required to pass SB 909 (Public Act 13-66),whichincreases the penalty on anyone receiving unemployment compensation benefits as a result of making a false statement or failing to disclose a material fact.
If the benefits are paid out because the employer failed to respond to the Labor Department’s requests for information, the payment of the benefits will negatively impact the employer’s experience rating.
Another bill (HB 6451) that lawmakers passedimposes a $50 penalty on employers that start a business or acquire another business and fail to electronically notify the Labor Department within 30 days that they are now subject to unemployment tax.
It also imposes a $25 penalty on employers that fail to provide the correct unemployment compensation registration number when they submit their quarterly wage reports to the labor department.
Also approved, HB 6452 (PA 13-141) will help streamline state agencies and reduce costs by requiring employers to filetheir quarterly wage reports electronically. (A business can request a waiver from the Labor Department if electronic filing creates an undue hardship.)
Lawmakers unfortunately approved SB 188 (Special Act 13-2), which creates astudy of the feasibility of providing benefits to unemployed teachers seeking higher education credentials and to people attempting to develop a new business.
Providing benefits to individuals not looking for a new job undermines a basic requirement of receiving unemployment compensation.
Wages and Benefits
Legislatorsconsidered numerous wage and benefit measures of concern. In the end, the majority of negative bills died, but two bills of concern to businesses were adopted. The House of Representatives also failed to move a measure that would have fixed several administrative problems caused by the state’s paid sick leave law.
Under SB 387 (PA 13-117), the state’s minimum wage will increase by $0.45 on January 1, 2014, and then by an additional $0.30 on January 1, 2015. This will bring Connecticut’s minimum wage to $9 per hour.
Another measure (HB 6553, SA 13-13) establishes a 23-member task force to study the feasibility of creating a program that would pay employees who are out on family and medical leave.
Despite wide bipartisan support in the Senate commonsense reforms of the state’s paid sick leave law contained in SB 1007 failed to gain approval in the House. The billwould have provided employers with flexibility to administer paid sick leave on a 365-day period of time other than a calendar year. It also clarified the manufacturing exemption and how an employer proves the number of employees they employ.
Several other proposals that would have made it harder to do business in Connecticut ultimately were stopped:
- SB 54 required any employer of five or more employees that does not offer their workers an employer-sponsored retirement plan to participate in a taxpayer subsidized state-administered plan. The bill not only would have added to employers’ administrative burdens, it likely would have led to mandating that employers contribute to such a plan.
- SB 906 required employers to electronically tag the directly deposited funds as “wages” so they could be more easily identified by employees’ creditors in the event of an execution proceeding.
- HB 6501 allowed employees with children or grandchildren to use up to eight hours of accumulated leave–with no notice to the employer–to attend certain school-related activities.
Of great concern was SB 907, whichwould have made it virtually impossible for employers to manage the medical care and treatment their employees receive under the workers’ compensation act. It was estimated that this bill would have increased employers’ workers’ compensation costs by $258 million over the next five years. Because the Senate did not bring it to a vote, this measure died.
Municipalities led the opposition to SB 823, which the Senate also declined to bring to a vote. The bill proposed to provide compensation for mental injuries that do not accompany a physical injury,which were banned under the 1993 workers’ compensation reforms.
Unfortunately, a positive proposal (SB 1074) failed to gain legislative approval despite the support of the business community. It was meant to correct an errant Workers’ Compensation Commission ruling and restore an employer’s ability to fairly negotiate hospital charges for services rendered to employees receiving treatments for workers’ comp-related injuries.
CBIA is very grateful for the participation and support of its members and those legislators who worked for positive proposals and against harmful measures.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede at 860.244.1931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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