Lawmakers in Connecticut are considering several proposed bills in the state House and Senate that would significantly impact employers if enacted.
The House and Senate proposed legislation that would require hourly workers to be paid if their shifts are cancelled on short notice. An employer would have to pay employees half their hourly regular rate for any scheduled work hours they do not work because the employer cancels or reduces the employees’ work hours when the employee has already reported to work or has not received a three-day notice from the employer.
Further, this bill requires an 11-hour break between shifts. Specifically, an employee may decline to work a shift that begins less than 11 hours after the end of the employee’s previous day’s shift or during the 11-hour period following the end of the employee’s shift that spanned two days. If the employee consents to this shift, the employer must obtain the consent in writing and the employee must be compensated at time and a half for the hours worked during the shift. On a related note, voluntary written consent is required if an employer wishes to schedule an employee without giving three days’ notice.
Lastly, the bill proposes that covered employers keep records showing the shifts worked each day and week by every employee, each employee’s schedule and any changes to an employee’s work schedule.
A similar bill was struck down by lawmakers last year. However, Democrats now have the numbers to pass the bill this year.
Family Medical Leave Insurance & Paid Family and Medical Leave Programs
Connecticut lawmakers are proposing bills that would create a comprehensive system of paid family and medical leave funded by employee contributions and applicable to employers of all sizes. The bill as it currently stands would apply to employers with at least one employee and defines eligible employees as those who have earned $2,325 in the highest-earning quarter within the five most recently completed calendar quarters. The proposed bill dramatically changes the eligibility standard for state FMLA leave. Additionally, it extends the family members for whose care leave may be taken under the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Employees also would be able to take leave to care for “any other individual related by blood whose close relationship with the employee is the equivalent of a family member.”
The proposal also will change the number of paid medical leave workweeks an employee has annually. As the law currently stands, employees can use 16 weeks of leave over a period of two years. The proposed Family Medical Leave Insurance Program would modify this by offering up to 12 workweeks at 100 percent compensation replacement to covered employees in any 12-month period. Employees also would be eligible for an additional two weeks of compensation for serious health conditions resulting in incapacitation that may occur during a pregnancy. To enroll in the program, employees must contribute a percentage of their weekly earnings to the program’s trust fund.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave Program has gained momentum within the state, which Governor Ned Lamont credits to “people [understanding] that workers shouldn’t need to struggle with a choice between their jobs and their health, a new child, or a difficult family situation.” Employers should stay alert as the proposal will affect employers not previously subject to the state’s FMLA coverage, and it will require changes to administrative processes.
Increases in Minimum Wage
Bills proposed by the Senate, House and governor are focused on increasing the minimum fair wage. The House and Senate bills raise Connecticut’s hourly minimum wage from $10.10 to $15. Accordingly, the bills propose that the minimum wage progresses to $12 an hour by January 1, 2020, then to $13.50 in 2021, and eventually to $15 by 2022. In comparison, the governor’s bill has a more gradual increase: $11.25 by January 1, 2020, $12.50 by 2021, $12.75 by 2022 and $15 by 2023.
After reaching $15, the bills propose that the minimum wage shall increase per the consumer price index in the northeastern United States as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although these bills are not yet law in Connecticut, employers should be proactive about evaluating their employee handbooks pending the changes. With a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and a newly elected Democratic governor, it seems likely that these employee-friendly bills will pass.