Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly: The Labor and Public Employees Committee Has Spoken (Part Three-Even More Bills)

Pullman & Comley - Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits Law

Our two prior blog posts, found here and here, covered the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee’s final flurry of activity of approving and advancing bills out of committee.  In addition to the bills that we have already summarized, here is a brief summary of other bills approved by the Committee (and which now await action by the full General Assembly). 

OSHA

VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS/AMBULANCE COMPANIES AND CT OSHA:  H.B. No. 6477 (An Act Concerning Volunteer Fire Departments And Ambulance Companies And The Definition Of Employer Under The State Occupational Safety And Health Act”) would clarify the definition of “employer” under the State Occupational Safety and Health Act so as to cover volunteer fire departments and ambulance companies to the extent they are regulated by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.  However, the bill provides that with respect to a first violation that is determined not to be of a serious nature, the volunteer fire department or ambulance company would only be issued a written warning.

CONSTRUCTION SAFETY TRAINING: S.B. No. 662 (“An Act Extending The Validity Of Certain Occupational Safety And Health Administration Training For Public Works Projects”) would extend the validity of certain Occupational Safety and Health Administration construction safety training from five to ten years for construction workers employed on public works projects covered by the “prevailing wage” laws.

OPERATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION: H.B. No. 6344 (“An Act Establishing The Office Of The Unemployed Workers’ Advocate”) would requirethe Commissioner of Labor (within available appropriations) to establish the Office of the Unemployed Workers’ Advocate within the Labor Department to provide assistance to individuals who are unemployed.  Among other things, the Advocate would be empowered to assist unemployed individuals seeking benefits (including helping them to understand their rights and responsibilities with respect to benefits) and filing appeals.  S.B. No. 904 (“An Act Concerning The Labor Department’s Executive Director”) would specify that the executive director of the Department’s Employment Security Division shall be in the classified service and devoted full-time to the duties of his or her office.

REGULATIONS: S.B. No. 902 (“An Act Concerning Working Conditions”) would require the Commissioner of Labor to adopt regulations regarding safe and equitable working conditions for all employees in the state. H.B. No. 6479 (“An Act Concerning The Efficient Operation Of The Department Of Labor”) would require the Commissioner of Labor to adopt regulations regarding the efficient operation of the Department of Labor.

MISCELLANEOUS

PERSONAL CARE ATTENDANTS AND PAYMENT OF WAGES:  S.B. No. 942 (“An Act Concerning The On-Time Payment Of Wages”) would require fiscal intermediaries that provide payroll services for paying state-funded personal care attendants to pay such persons weekly or bi-weekly on a regular pay day designated in advance by the fiscal intermediary. As under the payroll laws that apply to other employers and employees, they would be required to pay by  cash, check, direct deposit (upon the employee’s request), or payroll card.

DOMESTIC WORKERS: S.B. No. 943 (“An Act Concerning Wage Education And Enforcement Relating To Domestic Workers”) would require each employer employing a domestic worker to advise the worker in writing, at the time of hiring, of: 1) The rate of remuneration, hours of employment and wage payment schedules; 2) the job duties and responsibilities; 3) the availability of sick leave, days of rest, vacation, personal days and holidays (including whether such days are paid or unpaid, and the rate at which such days accrue); and 4) whether the individual or employer may charge any fees or costs for board and lodging, and, if so, the amount of such fees or costs.  The bill would require the Commissioner of Labor to establish a domestic workers education and training grants program to provide grants to qualified organizations for the following purposes: 1) To provide education and training for domestic workers and employers addressing minimum wage, overtime, sick leave, record-keeping, wage adjudication, retaliation, and the requirements of employers to advise employees of their terms of employment/working conditions (i.e., wages, hours, leave); 2) To provide one or more online resources for domestic workers and employers on state laws and regulations relating to domestic workers; and 3) To provide technical and legal assistance to domestic workers and employers through legal service providers.

PREVAILING WAGE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS: S.B. No. 999 (“An Act Concerning A Just Transition To Climate-Protective Energy Production And Community Investment”) would,among other things, require the developers of covered renewable energy projects to meet prevailing wage standards and to enter into community host agreements if their project has a total construction cost of at least $2.5 million.

TECHNICAL AND MINOR CHANGES:  S.B. No. 903 (“An Act Concerning Technical and Other Changes To The Labor Department Statutes”).  The title largely speaks for itself. S.B. No. 907 (“An Act Concerning Minor And Technical Changes To The Workers’ Compensation Act”). Again, the title largely speaks for itself.   However, the bill would change the title of “workers compensation commissioners” to “administrative law judges.”

AND FINALLY, MORE TASK FORCES AND STUDIES

Continuing with its well-established affinity for task forces and studies,the Committee approved H.B. No. 6343 (“An Act Concerning A Study Of Gig Workers”), which  would require the Commissioner of Labor (in consultation with Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic) to conduct a study of gig workers in this state (including but not limited to internet-based food delivery drivers and ridesharing service providers), and submit a report with findings and recommendations for legislation to prevent companies from improperly classifying such workers as independent contractors instead of employees to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee by January 1, 2022. 

H.B. No. 6476 (“An Act Concerning A Disparity Study”) would require the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, in consultation with the Department of Administrative Services, to issue a request for proposals for the conducting of a “disparity study.” The study shall provide an analysis of existing statistical data concerning the state’s set-aside program, to determine whether its current form achieves the goal of facilitating the participation in state contracts of small contractors and minority business enterprises.  

S.B. No. 141 (“An Act Establishing A Task Force To Study Cancer Relief Benefits For Firefighters”) would establish atask force to study cancer relief benefits for firefighters. Such study shall include, but need not be limited to, an examination of 1) the adequacy of the current firefighters cancer relief program and 2) the feasibility and implications of  providing workers’ compensation and other benefits, including death benefits, to firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer acquired as a  result of occupational exposure to noxious fumes or poisonous gases.  The task force is to submit its report with its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee by January 1, 2022.

S.B. No. 1001 (“An Act Concerning Employment Regulation”) would require the Department of Labor to conduct a study regarding the need for employment regulation and submit its report with its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee by January 1, 2022.  H.B. No. 6379 (“An Act Concerning a Study of Employee Rights”) would require the Commissioner of Labor to conduct a study of the rights of employees in this state and submit a report with findings and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee by January 1, 2022.  This could be a placeholder bill.

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Bills affecting labor and employment issues may also emerge from other committees (such as the Judiciary and Planning and Development Committees).  The 2021 session of the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on June 9, 2021, so stay tuned to see if any of these bills are eventually enacted.

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