The state House and Senate are meeting with increased frequency and acting on a number of bills originating from the Labor and Public Employees Committee.
Fortunately, the business community’s message regarding doing no harm to protect the state's economic recovery seems to be resonating with lawmakers—at least for now.
Advocacy efforts have resulted in a few victories, including the death of a number of harmful bills.
Of course, any of these items could be revived through amendments and many bills remain that will cause more than enough trouble for employers.
On April 29, the state Senate followed the House's earlier example and unanimously approved HB 5377, which shields employers from COVID-19 related unemployment experience rating changes. That bill now waits on the governor's signature.
Remote Work Expenses
On May 3, the legislature's Appropriations Committee opted to take no action on the following Labor Committee approved bills that were referred to their committee:
- HB 6536: Imposes significant financial penalties on employers who fail to reimburse employees for all expenditures they believe were needed to work from home. There are no caps on what the employee can spend, and there is no neutral party designated to determine qualifying expenses—creating unnecessary conflicts between employers and employees. The bill is now dead.
- HB 6475: Outsources the power of the attorney general and allows third parties to bring public enforcement actions against businesses while financial penalties grow exponentially. This scheme is so thoroughly abused in California that businesses are often forced to settle even when they are not in the wrong. Multi-year studies show that 75% of the settlements did not protect aggrieved employees, but were used to enrich the state and third parties. The bill is now dead.
- HB 6537: Expands the state’s existing sick leave law that applies to businesses with 50 or more employees to all employees at every employer in the state. Connecticut’s smallest businesses are already struggling to keep up with their larger competitors and cannot take on the cost of new workplace mandates. The bill is now dead.
The Appropriations Committee did, however, take favorable action on the following Labor Committee bills:
- HB 6595 and SB 1002: These identical bills increase costs in a variety of ways, including creating a presumption that an employee who contracts COVID-19 did so in the workplace regardless of where transmission occurred, requires employers to recall employees based on seniority (despite skill level or productivity), and requires the provision of 80 hours of sick leave, the cost of which will be borne by employers of any size, that can be used retroactively. The bills now return to their respective chambers.
The Judiciary Committee also opted May 3 to take no action on the following Labor Committee measure referred to their committee:
- SB 906: Makes any non-compete agreement invalid after July 1, 2021 if the employee is a non-exempt (hourly) employee, or if individual subject to it is an exempt employee earning three times the minimum wage ($93,600 for a full time employee at $15 an hour) or an independent contractor earning five times the hourly minimum wage, or if the agreement was not made in anticipation of the sale of a business, if the employment relationship was ended by the employer, including for misconduct, or if the employee leaves employment because they believe they have good cause attributable to the employer. Imposes similar restrictions on exclusivity agreements. The bill is now dead.
Layoffs, Shift Scheduling
The Judiciary Committee did, however, act favorably on the following:
- SB 658: Requires employers to recall laid off employees in order of seniority, ignoring things like productivity, skill level, attendance and disciplinary history. The bill now returns to the Senate.
- SB 668: Requires employers to ask employees about their desired number of hours and shift locations and provide a weekly estimate of hours. Any scheduling changes without 14 days notice will result in financial penalties for the employer. Employers also need to see if they are meeting employee scheduling requests before they can hire new employees. The bill now returns to the Senate.
There is still a lot of work to be done this session. CBIA appreciates those employers who reached out to their lawmakers and shared their concerns about various issues. It makes a huge difference.