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May 3, 2024

CT lawmakers extend paid leave benefits to employees of tribes

MARK PAZNIOKAS / CT MIRROR From left, Reps. Derell Wilson and Manny Sanchez of labor committee listen to House Speaker Matt Ritter and his counsel, Ricky Baltimore.

A bill that would offer statewide paid leave to employees of Connecticut’s federally recognized tribes gained final passage in the House on Thursday night.

The bill would also extend paid leave to sexual assault victims.

Senate Bill 222 next heads to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk for his signature. It would change Connecticut’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance law and its family violence leave law.

The state’s paid leave program is employee-funded and offers up to 12 weeks of partial pay for employees who are on unpaid leave for events such as the birth of a child or if an employee needs to get services following domestic violence.

The bill allows the governor the authority to enter into an agreement with any of the state’s federally recognized tribes to offer paid leave benefits to any employees of the tribe or tribally owned businesses. 

It broadens the state’s family violence law so that victims of sexual assault can get paid leave.

S.B. 222 puts into law requirements for employers to register with the Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Authority. It also requires that health care providers have information about the leave program on display.

Representatives from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Mohegan Tribe submitted testimony in support of the bill.

“We appreciate this language and the Mohegan Tribe welcomes the opportunity to continue to build on the strong government-to-government partnership between this Legislature and Connecticut’s Tribes,” Mohegan Tribe chief of staff Chuck Bunnell wrote in public testimony.

Proponents of the bill say it would expand benefits to cover victims of sexual assault, who are disproportionately likely to be women and disproportionately likely to be in a racial or ethnic minority group.

Republicans objected, saying the bill could put more burden on employers, would cost employees money and that the legislature should maintain oversight of the contract with the tribes. They filed several amendments, none of which passed.

Labor and Public Employees Committee vice chair Rep. Derell Wilson, D-Norwich, said the bill language was crafted to ensure that the agreement respected the sovereignty of the tribes.

The Senate bill works alongside a House Bill that representatives passed last week to expand paid sick leave in Connecticut to gradually cover nearly every employee by 2027.

S.B. 222 passed with a vote of 108-41, largely along party lines, with two not voting.

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