Labor Committee Renews Assault on Small Businesses

02.18.2022
Small Business

The legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee kicked off the 2022 session Feb. 15 with a salvo of proposals, the majority of them costly new workplace mandates with an outsize impact on Connecticut small businesses.

The committee’s first agenda featured 30 bill concepts—essentially one-sentence titles with little detail—including failed measures recycled from previous years.

Robyn Porter and Julie Kushner, Labor Committee
Labor Committee co-chairs Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) and Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury).

“This is the exact opposite of what Connecticut’s struggling small businesses need to recover from the pandemic,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima.

“Lawmakers should be making it easier—not more difficult—to create jobs and keep companies here. It’s one thing to talk about helping businesses and our economy and it’s disheartening when actions don’t mirror the rhetoric.

“Yet another torrent of potential workplace mandates makes a challenging situation even tougher—further driving up the high cost of doing business, dumping administrative burdens on smaller employers, and reinforcing tired old perceptions about the state’s business climate.”

Proposed Mandates

Acting largely on party lines, the committee moved all 30 concepts to the next stage of the legislative process, including the following mandates:

  • An Act Concerning Fair Work Week Schedule. This perennial measure imposes penalties on employers that are unable to, due to the nature of their industry,  post employee schedules weeks in advance.  
  • An Act Concerning Non-Compete Agreements. Last year’s failed bill eliminated non-compete agreements for all hourly employees, a significant number of salaried employees, and any instance where the employee ended the employment relationship.  
  • An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences. Further erodes the ability of employers to use criminal background checks on prospective employees.  
  • An Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings. Despite one past Connecticut Attorney General ruling the issue is preempted by federal law, this perennial measure restricts employer-employee communications in the workplace.
  • An Act Concerning Expansion of Connecticut Paid Sick Days. In addition to the most expansive paid family and medical leave program in the nation, this proposals now expands the state’s paid sick leave law.  
  • An Act Concerning Unemployment Compensation for Striking Workers. Allows workers that have not lost their jobs, nor are looking for work, to receive unemployment benefits while simultaneously increasing employer tax rates. 
  • An Act Concerning Expanding Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Injuries for All Employees. Increases the cost of workers compensation insurance dramatically to cover mental injuries that do not accompany a physical injury.  
  • An Act Concerning Forced Arbitration. Deputizes labor unions to bring public enforcement actions, circumvent the class action process, and impose stacking penalty provisions on employers in order to force settlements.   

‘Numbers Don’t Lie’

CBIA’s Eric Gjede noted that the committee, which currently has nine Democrats and four Republican members, has approved over 75 costly workplace mandates in the last six years and proposed and debated an additional 75, all during a period of anemic job and economic growth in the state.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Gjede said. “Connecticut’s unemployment rate is tied for sixth highest in the country, job growth last year trailed most of the region and the country, and there are 74,300 fewer people working today than before the pandemic.

“Once again, committee leadership is demonstrating a troubling disconnect between their policy priorities and the state’s critical economic needs.

“It’s time for lawmakers to focus on solutions for making the state more affordable, reducing the high cost of doing business here, and supporting hard-hit small businesses as they attempt to recover from the pandemic.”

Committee member Rep. Harry Arora (R-Greenwich) questioned committee leadership during the Feb. 15 meeting about a proposed bill simply titled An Act Protecting Workers.

“When the question was asked, ‘What are you protecting them from?,’ the answer was ‘We don’t know yet,'” Arora said.

“Maybe we should add on this ‘And Connecticut Employers’ so we can give them some degree of comfort as well?”

More Mandates Pending

Committee co-chair Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) told Arora “that is what a concept is and that is why it is being raised as a concept.”

Fellow co-chair Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) defended the committee, saying “I’m proud of our record of supporting Connecticut’s workers and doing so in a way that advances our whole state.

“I’m confident that this bill—after it’s been heard, after it’s been flushed out—if it passes out of this committee it will be a good bill.”

The committee will raise another 14 concepts at its Feb. 22 meeting. Among the proposals:

  • An Act Concerning Regulation of and Labor Rights for Network Transportation Drivers
  • An Act Concerning the Extension of Covid Recall Rights
  • An Act Concerning Workers’ Compensation for Dispatchers
  • An Act Concerning Floating Holidays for State Employees
  • An Act Concerning Problems with Workers’ Compensation
  • An Act Concerning Raising the Threshold for UI Overpayments
  • An Act Concerning Union Workers
  • An Act Concerning Minor and Technical Changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act
  • An Act Concerning Deadlines for Arbitration Awards
  • An Act Concerning Identity Theft
  • An Act Concerning a Return to Work Program
  • An Act Concerning Undue Delays in Workers’ Compensation

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

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CBIA IS FIGHTING TO MAKE CONNECTICUT A TOP STATE FOR BUSINESS, JOBS, AND ECONOMIC GROWTH. A BETTER BUSINESS CLIMATE MEANS A BRIGHTER FUTURE FOR EVERYONE.