What Can We Expect from this Connecticut General Assembly Session?

by Pullman & Comley - Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Law
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On February 6, 2014, the 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly began.  Since this is an election year, the session will be relatively short, with adjournment scheduled for May 7, 2014.   We can expect a plethora of proposed bills affecting Connecticut employers and employees that will be unleashed in during the session, most of which will never see the light of day.

The Labor and Public Employees Committee will be the place where the “real” significant initial action will occur.  Hearings on those bills deemed somewhat worthy by the Committee will likely take place in early March.  The deadline for the Committee to approve and “forward” bills out of Committee is March 20, 2014. Of course, bills affecting labor and employment issues may also emerge from other committees (such as the Judiciary Committee).

While it is difficult to forecast with scientific precision as to what the General Assembly (on its own or at the urging of the Governor) may consider, one can surmise that the issue of restrictive covenants will re-emerge, as will consideration of broadening free speech protections for employees and possibly paid Family and Medical Leave.  In addition, with the Governor’s recent pronouncement on a minimum wage increase, there will be serious consideration of an increase.  Finally, one can assume that there will be further consideration of adjustments in the investigatory and hearing procedures for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Working Together will follow the action at the General Assembly and report on any significant developments as they may occur.  As always, one must be cognizant of the potential for last minute surprises, including bill provisions emerging with little or no debate.

Here is a list of the labor committee bills that are scheduled for public hearing on Tuesday, February 18th (excluding bills list that do not apply to the private sector or are industry specific).  Thanks to Eric Gjede, Assistant Counsel at Connecticut Business & Industry Association for the list and brief explanation.

1. S.B. No. 32 AN ACT CONCERNING WORKING FAMILIES’ WAGES. (LAB) This bill imposes a fine on employers and franchisees with 500 or more employees that do not pay their employees the standard rate of wages.  The standard rate of wages is the wage paid to certain unionized food service, maintenance and janitorial employees.

2. S.B. No. 57 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE DIRECT DEPOSIT OF WAGES. (LAB) This bill will require employers to arrange with payroll providers that any “wages” that are directly deposited into an employee’s account be electronically tagged as “wages”.  If tagged, these wages become “readily identifiable”, and a portion will still be available to the employee if the account is frozen by a creditor.

3. S.B. No. 58 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING AN INCREASE IN PENALTIES DUE TO FALSE OR MISLEADING DECLARATIONS, STATEMENTS OR REPRESENTATIONS. (LAB) This bill increases the penalties on employers that willfully fail to declare wages on payroll records.

4. S.B. No. 60 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING EMPLOYEE WORKING CONDITIONS. (LAB) This may be a placeholder bill for a concept yet to be determined.

5. S.B. No. 64 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING AMENDMENTS TO THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR STATUTES. (LAB) This primarily makes technical fixes to the labor department statutes.  Most of the fixes are centered around eliminating references to a program on developing a film workforce, and requirements to coordinate all workforce development programs in the state.  It also eliminates a requirement labor organizations file a report with the labor department that can be inspected by the union members.

6. H.B. No. 5054 AN ACT CONCERNING UNEMPLOYED JOB SEEKERS. (LAB) This bill makes it fineable offense to for a business to post advertisements for open employment positions and indicating that unemployed individuals are disqualified from the job.

7. H.B. No. 5064 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE LABOR DEPARTMENT. (LAB) This may be a placeholder bill for a concept yet to be determined.

8. H.B. No. 5065 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION. (LAB) This is a placeholder bill designed for another concept.

9. H.B. No. 5069 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING LOW WAGE EMPLOYERS. (LAB) This bill imposes a fine of $1 per hour per employee on employers and franchisees with 500 or more employees that do not pay their employees the standard rate of wages.  The standard rate of wages is the wage paid to certain unionized food service, maintenance and janitorial employees.

For a complete listing of the bills that are the subject of the hearing, please click here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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