With just a few weeks left in what has turned out to be a very unpredictable legislative session in Connecticut, there are still several bills up for consideration that employers need to be on the look out for. (I’ve touched on some others earlier this month here and here.)

Employer Access to “Personal On-Line Accounts”

One bill would prohibit employers from asking for account information from employees or applicants for any “personal on-line accounts”. 

This is quite broad and includes e-mail, social media, and retail-based (think: Amazon) accounts.

As I’ve noted before, this is a bill in search of a problem. But beyond that, this draft bill does a lot more damage than that.  (For a better background on the subject, see this briefing paper.)

It fails to address various questions:

  • If an employee accesses personal accounts from a company-issued device or computer, does the employer have any rights to that information?
  • Where is the exception for employers who seek such information as part of a workplace harassment/violence investigation?
  • How do you reconcile this bill with Connecticut’s Electronic Monitoring laws?

There are several amendments up for consideration too, but hopefully the legislation will approach this slowly, rather than jumping in with legislation that isn’t really needed in the first place.

Study for “Paid FMLA”

Two years ago, the legislature passed the first of its kind Paid Sick Leave.  Now, a new bill currently under strong consideration would study whether some type of Paid FMLA Leave should be next. 

To be sure, House Bill 6553 would merely create a study that would look at the ”feasibility of establishing an insurance program to provide short-term benefits to workers who are unable to work due to (1) pregnancy or the birth of a child, (2) a non-work-related illness or injury, or (3) the need to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent.”

A more thorough discussion of the bill was done on a “Coffee with Cathy” video, produced by State Senator Cathy Oster.  And there’s lots of useful testimony on the subject, including this prepared statement by PCSW Executive Director Teresa Younger

The concern, of course, is not with the study itself. New Jersey and California have some type of FMLA-insurance programs so Connecticut would be just the third state to implement it.  And the idea of a short-term-disability-like insurance program may have some utility.

But the burning question is whether this study will lead to another employer mandate or a request that employers shoulder some or all of the cost of insuring all types of FMLA leave.  After all, many employers now provide for short-term disability but pay for it themselves. Will FMLA leave insurance paid for by the employer be far behind?

The CBIA, as you would expect, is calling into question this bill:

Surprisingly, it’s not a “should-we-do-this?” study but a “how-to” mission. That’s a decidedly wrong focus in a state struggling with high unemployment and low job creation.

Worse, the bill calls for only two positions within the 23-member task force to be directly staffed by representatives from Connecticut’s business community.

What will the next few weeks bring? We will soon find out.

Please see Coffee with Cathy video here.

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