More than 40 Connecticut employer organizations this week warned lawmakers that a package of proposed workplace mandates undermines the state’s economic recovery and job creation prospects.

In a letter sent April 19 to all members of the General Assembly, the organizations, including CBIA, cited a dozen bills approved this session by the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee.

Labor Committee chairs Sen. Julie Kushner and Rep. Robyn Porter
Labor Committee co-chairs Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) and Rep. Robin Porter (D-New Haven) pictured at a February committee hearing.

The groups told lawmakers the bills “increase costs for small businesses, create barriers to job growth, impose greater uncertainty and lack of consumer confidence, and unnecessarily hamper Connecticut’s economic recovery.”

“It is expected to take years for Connecticut’s economy to fully recover from the pandemic,” the letter noted. “There are 121,500 fewer jobs in this state than there were a year ago.

“Despite every effort, thousands of our small businesses permanently closed their doors, and many more continue to struggle.

“How can Connecticut businesses and our economy recover when faced with legislation like the following?”

Legislation

The organizations are asking lawmakers to oppose the following bills, which await action from other committees or by the state Senate or House:

  • HB 6537: Expands state’s paid sick leave mandate to all employers, rather than non-manufacturers with 50 or more employers.
  • SB 658: Requires employers to recall laid off employees in order of seniority, ignoring other factors such as skill level, attendance, and disciplinary history. 
  • SB 668: Penalizes employers if they adjust employee shifts for any reason without 14 days notice. 
  • HB 6475: Outsources the power of the attorney general to third parties to file claims against businesses, imposing massive new financial penalties.
  • SB 906: Invalidates noncompete agreements for all employees making less than $93,000, exposing employers to the loss of confidential information and proprietary data.
  • HB 6380: Requires equal pay for comparable work rather than equal pay for equal work, undermining the ability to compensate employees based on merit. 
  • HB 6383: Imposes daily fines on businesses that relocate or reduce their phone or computer-based customer service operations without providing 100 days notice. 
  • HB 6536: Imposes $1,000 penalties on businesses that don’t reimburse employees for any expense the employee believes to be necessary to facilitate working from home. 
  • HB 6474: Requires employers to conduct individualized assessments before rejecting job applicants with a criminal history. 
  • HB 6478: Creates a presumption that an employee who contracts COVID-19 did so in the workplace, regardless of where transmission occurred.
  • HB 6595 & SB 1002: Identical bills that increase the cost of workers’ compensation; require employers to rehire individuals exclusively based on time of service; and mandate 80 hours of paid sick leave and unemployment benefits above what certain individuals earned. 

'Harmful Measures'

CBIA vice president of government affairs Eric Gjede said the bills reflect the Labor Committee leadership’s “troubling agenda” of recent years.

“Over the last year, employers have borne the significant costs of navigating COVID-19 disruptions, including lockdowns and restrictions that have put too many small companies out of business,” Gjede said.

"Where's the understanding of what it's going to take to restore hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and rebuild the state's economy?"

CBIA's Eric Gjede

“There’s really no rhyme or reason for the committee to pursue such a broad series of harmful measures, particularly in the middle of the pandemic.

“Where’s the logic? Where’s the understanding of what it’s going to take to restore the hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and rebuild the state’s economy?

“This is not changing the narrative for what Connecticut needs to be successful. These are the same types of policies that caused us to lag every other state in recovering from the last recession.”

Unemployment Fund Debt

Gjede said employers already face repaying about $1 billion in federal loans the state took out to pay unemployment benefits, unless policymakers intervene and use federal relief funds to cover the debt.

The letter signed by the 44 business organizations acknowledged the assistance provided by both state and federal governments in the last year.

“While our state’s business community appreciates the financial lifelines that both the state and federal government provided, major challenges remain as we look to the future,” the letter read.

"Please be our partners as we work to rebuild Connecticut."

“Further assistance is necessary, but more important to our business climate is stability.

“We all endured hardship this last year. The undersigned organizations, representing a significant number of employers from across the state, ask that you work with us to help Connecticut emerge from this pandemic stronger than before.

“In the remaining weeks of this legislative session, we ask that you please do no harm. Please be our partners as we work to rebuild Connecticut.”