Unemployment Benefits for Striking Workers, Paid Sick Leave Bills Raised

Issues & Policies

The Labor and Public Employees Committee’s first public hearing agenda of the legislative session was filled with a number of harmful proposals that undermine the state’s fragile economic recovery.

Proposals included eliminating noncompete agreements that could result in the loss of proprietary and customer information, extending a mandate for recalling employees laid off during COVID, or deputizing organized labor to bring predatory lawsuits with stacking penalty provisions to force settlements. 

From 2016 to 2021, the state legislature enacted a staggering 28 costly workplace mandates and debated another 122, all of which originated in the Labor Committee.

The committee’s second public hearing March 8 continued its assault on small businesses, with a new round of costly mandates further reinforcing the disconnect between committee leadership’s priorities and the state’s critical economic needs.

The March 8 agenda included:

Paid sick leave expansion. SB 312 modifies the state’s paid sick leave law, currently applicable to employers with 50 or more service workers, to apply to every business in the state with as few as one employee. The bill also gives employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 paid sick leave—which can be used retroactively. 

Since its enactment in 2012, Connecticut’s paid sick leave law has proven costly for Connecticut businesses employing service workers.

As CBIA has noted previously, the lack of flexibility of the statute has resulted in additional costs and administrative burdens for Connecticut businesses.

Unintended Consequences

Even prior to the passage of the Connecticut mandate in 2011, studies conducted by paid sick leave advocates showed that 90 percent of employers in this state were already providing sick leave.

Yet, because of the law, 53 percent of those employers incurred between two percent and five percent or more in additional costs to comply with the state mandate.

Many of these companies reported having to cut hours and other benefits to offset those increased costs. 

Employers have realized none of the promised benefits of the sick leave mandate, with little evidence to support claims it reduced workplace illnesses or cut employee turnover.

Unemployment for Striking Workers

Under current law, individuals that are unemployed due to a strike they are interested in, financing, or participating in are ineligible to collect unemployment benefits. SB 317 modifies that, providing benefits for striking workers after two weeks. 

Make no mistake, the goal of the bill is to provide additional leverage to striking workers at the expense of employers.

Businesses are not only harmed by a workplace shutdown, but also now see their unemployment merit rates increase as a result of striking workers collecting benefits. 

This proposal is nothing short of astonishing, particularly given that employers remain on the hook for the remaining $555 million balance in federal loans taken to cover record unemployment claims during the pandemic.

Employers will also be paying back an additional $350 million in interest and credit reductions as a result of the near $1 billion in loans, with higher unemployment taxes looming this fall.

Awarding benefits to striking workers that meet none of the eligibility criteria—like being unemployed through no fault of their own, being available for a job, and looking for a job—is a remarkable slap in the face for employers across the state. 

Warehouse Workers

SB 314 appears to be a retaliatory measure for failed attempts to unionize online retail warehouse workers, with the Labor Committee proposing mandates around performance metrics put in place to improve efficiency and avoid logistical errors. 

Employee performance metrics are common in most private sector industries, and are critical for ensuring long-term business goals while assisting in merit-based compensation for employees.

Such standards are not arbitrarily created but based on past performance of employees in the aggregate. 

Connecticut is home to some of the safest workplaces in the nation. Businesses go through incredible lengths and expense to ensure the highest standards for employees and customers alike.

The committee continues its assault on small businesses, further reinforcing the disconnect between its priorities and the state’s critical economic needs.

SB 314:

  •  Insinuates that the imposition of performance metrics requires the violation of a  multitude of labor laws and OSHA regulations. Employers care about their employees. If violations occur, there are processes for initiating complaints and investigations already in statute.  
  • Section 1 (c) requires employers to provide former employees with “speed  data” within 21 days of their request. At what point in time is an employer no longer required to provide former employees with this data? Does this obligation extend beyond requirements for employee personnel file retention periods?  
  • Section 1 (d) creates a rebuttable presumption that any adverse  employment action taken against an employee after a request for their “speed data” was done in retaliation. Would this not lead to situations where an employee engaging in workplace misconduct would ask for their data to bring a retaliation claim in the event of their termination for misconduct? This section makes legitimate disciplinary actions and enforcement of workplace safety, violence, and harassment policies more difficult. 

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Gjede (860.480.1784) | @egjede


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