Legislative Update On Proposed Labor And Employment Bills Affecting Connecticut Employers

Author:Mr Jason Stanevich, Sharon B. Bowler, Maura A. Mastrony and Stephen P. Rosenberg
Profession:Littler Mendelson

As we move deeper into the 2019 legislative season, the Connecticut General Assembly is considering several proposed bills in the state House and Senate that—if enacted—would affect employers in significant ways. With a substantial Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate—and a newly elected Democratic governor—there is a good chance that several employee-friendly bills will pass this year, including a new paid family and medical leave program. Below is an overview of the more meaningful bills that were recently reported out of the Labor and Public Employees Committee for review and action by the full Connecticut House and Senate.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Senate Bill No. 1: An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave and House Bill No. 5003: An Act Implementing a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program would create a comprehensive system of paid family and medical leave funded by employee contributions. This proposal for a statewide program is the latest in a string of attempts over the last few legislative sessions. The proposed scope of coverage is broad and would significantly affect employers of all sizes. The current version of the bills would apply to most employers with at least one employee (as opposed to the current minimum threshold of 75 employees), with eligible employees defined as those who have earned $2,325 in the highest-earning quarter within the five most recently completed calendar quarters. This proposal dramatically changes the eligibility standard for state FMLA leave, which requires that an employee work for 12 months and 1,000 hours. In addition to the family members currently identified under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA), siblings, grandparents and grandchildren would be included as family members for whom leave may be taken. Employees would also be able to take leave to care for "any other individual related by blood or whose close relationship with the employee is the equivalent of a family member."

The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program would offer up to 12 workweeks of 100% compensation replacement (capped at $1,000 per week) to covered employees in any 12-month period, with an additional two weeks of compensation for serious health conditions resulting in incapacitation that occur during a pregnancy. Currently, employees can use 16 weeks of leave over a period of two years. By July 1, 2020, employees would have to contribute a percentage of their weekly earnings (not to exceed one-half of one percent) to the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund. It is contemplated that the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program would begin paying benefits by July 1, 2021.

An employee who is denied compensation would be able to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner, who would hold a hearing and award any appropriate relief, including any compensation or benefits to which the employee otherwise would have been eligible. An aggrieved party would also be entitled to appeal the decision to the Superior Court.

The proposed legislation would impose notice obligations on employers at the time of hiring and annually thereafter. Individuals who make false statements or omissions of material facts to obtain compensation would be barred from receiving compensation for one year.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Program has significant momentum and...

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