Any hopes the business community might have had that the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee might improve on previous years’ versions of workforce legislation were quickly dashed last week.
The committee released a trio of bills that will add costly new mandates on Connecticut businesses at a time when the legislature should be focusing on making job creation easier—not more expensive.
SB 747 requires that businesses post employee work schedules 21 days in advance.
If an employer makes any change to the schedule within 24 hours of the start of any shift, they would have to pay the employee “predictability pay”—the equivalent of one hour of wages.
If that schedule change was made with less than 24-hours' notice, the employer must then pay the employee the equivalent of four hours' pay.
The goal is to eliminate on-call shift scheduling that can be inconvenient for employees.
But the problems linked to this concept are why it was scrapped in the past.
First, many employees who take jobs with on-call hours accept this scheduling arrangement when applying for the job.
Second, many industries use on-call scheduling because they don’t know what to expect on any given day.
For example, a contractor can’t schedule workers to install insulation if the electricians haven’t finished their work. But the contractor would be penalized under this proposal.
And a retailer facing a day with few customers could not send an employee home for lack of business without having to pay that employee for hours not worked.
Also interesting in the bill: Employers who violate the law could be subject to a civil action brought by the Department of Labor and be liable for up to three times the amount of lost wages or predictability pay.
If the department prevails, it retains half of whatever wages are recovered from the employee, meaning it is in the department's financial interest to sue Connecticut businesses.
‘Novel Way to Kill Jobs’
HB 6901 requires businesses with 500 or more employees, or franchisors whose franchisees collectively employ 500 or more people, to pay a fine of $1 an hour for each employee earning less than $15 hourly.
The proposal has been accurately described in one state media outlet as “Connecticut’s novel way to kill jobs.”
Employers could be subject to a civil action brought by the state and be liable for up to three times the amount of lost wages.
Further, proponents of the bill tend to overlook that legislation like this could backfire by spurring the automation of the jobs they’re looking to protect.
Beyond its immediate effect, one reason this bill has traction is its potential to create revenue—hundreds of millions of new tax dollars for a state with serious financial problems—while not looking like a tax.
HB 6914 requires businesses located in buildings with at least 100,000 square feet to guarantee anyone performing janitorial duties a 30-hour work week.
Under this proposal, it doesn’t matter if you subcontract your janitorial work to others; you still need to ensure those workers get 30 hours.
If you happen to not need that much janitorial work, you’ll be subject to a $500 fine for each violation of the law.
In years past, proposals like these have failed to make it through the legislative process, and CBIA will continue to convey their job-dampening impact to state lawmakers.
With the economy struggling to get on its feet, let's hope common sense will prevail, and Connecticut’s economy will be allowed to continue to improve and catch up with the rest of the country—particularly in job creation.