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April 1, 2024 Politics & Policy

Labor committee sends dozens of bills to House and Senate; these proposals would impact businesses

CT Mirror Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

The General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee recently approved several dozen bills, including numerous measures that would significantly impact Connecticut businesses.

The bills were sent to the full House and Senate for further consideration. Lawmakers have until May 8, the end of this year’s legislative session, to act on the proposals.

Several of the bills faced opposition from the business community, including one that would phase out the state’s tipped minimum wage, and another that would expand Connecticut’s paid sick and family medical leave program.

Many of the bills were approved along party-line votes, with eight Democrats in favor and four Republicans in opposition.

The Democratic co-chairs of the committee are Sen. Julie Kushner (Danbury) and Rep. Manny Sanchez (New Britain).

The ranking member Republicans on the committee are Sen. Rob Sampson (Wolcott) and Rep. Steve Weir (Hebron).

Bills voted out of the labor committee along party-line votes included:

Paid sick days expansion

Senate bills 7 and 12 and House bill 5005 all expand the state’s paid sick days laws. They require all employers to provide employees with paid sick days, regardless of company size. Under current statutes, only employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide paid sick days.

The bills would also expand the permitted purposes for which an employee may use a paid sick day, such as counseling for a physical or psychological injury or disability. They also expand the definition of who qualifies as a family member when a worker wants to use a paid sick day to include an individual’s parents and domestic partners.

Striking workers’ benefits

House bill 5164 allows striking employees to access unemployment benefits after two consecutive weeks on the picket lines. It’s similar to a Democratic proposal that passed in the state Senate last year, but didn’t get through the House.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, a nonpartisan fiscal research office for the legislature, the bill results in a one-time cost of $396,000 to the state’s General Fund.

If striking workers become eligible for unemployment benefits, it would also result in a cost to Connecticut’s Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded by employers.

Tipped wages

Senate bill 221 phases out the lower minimum wage for hourly employees who earn tips, which would force many restaurants to increase wages.

Connecticut’s hourly minimum wages for waitstaff and bartenders are $6.38 and $8.23, respectively. The state’s regular minimum wage is $15.69 per hour. Waitstaff and bartenders are still required to earn at least $15.69, but tips count toward that total.

If tips don’t get workers to the $15.69 threshold, employers are required by law to make up the difference.

Noncompete agreements

House bill 5269 bans new noncompete agreements for employees who are paid below three times the minimum wage, and independent contractors who are paid below five times the minimum wage.

It also bans noncompete agreements when a worker leaves for “good cause,” and does not allow such agreements to last longer than one year.

Prescription drug benefits

House bill 5386 requires employers or insurers acting on behalf of employees to provide notice of a proposed discontinuance or reduction of coverage of an employee’s prescription medication, and get approval from an administrative law judge before it takes effect.

Unpaid subcontractor wages

Senate bill 409 makes a contractor liable for unpaid wages owed to an employee of a subcontractor who performs work on any portion of a construction contract.

Warehouse quotas

Senate bill 412 creates protections for warehouse workers against unreasonable quotas imposed by employers. For example, it would restrict the use of quotas based solely on ranking the performance of one employee in relation to the performance of other employees.

It also requires employers to provide a written description to new hires of each quota the employee is or will be subject to, and any potential adverse employment action that may result from failing to meet each quota.

Work schedule changes

Senate bill 413 requires retail, food services, hospitality and long-term healthcare providers with 500 or more employees to provide workers 14 days advance notice of their work schedules, with limited ability to make schedule changes.

It also requires employers to pay workers extra if they don’t provide enough advance notice of a schedule change.

Bills that passed out of the labor committee with bipartisan support included:

Wage and hour inspectors

House bill 5384 increases the number of wage and hour inspectors at the Labor Department in order to monitor the increasing number of wage theft complaints in the state.

Paid time off

House bill 5468 didn’t have full consensus — state Sen. Sampson voted against it, while his three Republican peers voted in favor of it — but would require employers to provide 12 months’ notice prior to making changes to their paid time off policy.

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