Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly: The Labor and Public Employees Committee Has Spoken (Part Two-Wage and State Employee - Related Bills)
CT General Assembly with Flower Bush

We have written about the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee’s final flurry of activity of approving and advancing bills out of committee.  In addition to the bills that we have already summarized, here is a brief summary of some additional bills relating to wage issues and state employee matters approved by the Committee (and which now await action by the full General Assembly). 

STATE EMPLOYEES AND EQUITY ISSUES: H.B. No. 6861 (“An Act Adopting The Recommendations Of The Task Force To Study The State Workforce And Retiring Employees”) would require covered state agencies to take various actions to address discrimination, retaliation, and disparities in their workplaces, including requiring them to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against using managerial authority to discriminate or retaliate against employees who make discrimination complaints. The bill also creates a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer to oversee a transformative hiring process in state government.  The bill creates an Equity Advisory Committee that must appoint the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Additionally, the bill requires each state agency to assess its diversity needs and submit the assessment to the chief diversity officer, the governor, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, and the Equity Advisory Committee.  The bill establishes a “racial justice ombudsperson” within the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, who must be an expert in the history and persistent effects of racism. The ombudsperson shall, among other things: 1) institute a “diverse slate” initiative that assures that all state employment applicants, regardless of their protected class status, are not disadvantaged in the hiring process; 2) submit a theory of action and plan making constant progress towards eliminating systemic racism in state government; and 3) track and review the performance review process and protocols and performance reviews to identify discrepancies between white workers and black and brown workers in order to create remediation plans to address racial disparities.

STATE HIRING PROCESS: S.B. No. 984 (“An Act Accelerating The State Hiring Process”) would provide greater discretion to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) in setting the process used by it and other state agencies to make decisions on hiring employees for the state employee classified service  by, among other things: 1) allowing appointing authorities to hire any applicant whom the authority finds is the most qualified and suitable for the position, regardless of any statutory or “employment requirements,” with any pre-employment requirements to be done during the applicant’s working test period; 2) expanding how agencies may measure applicants’ qualifications by eliminating certain requirements to base hiring decisions on examination/testing scores; and 3) having military service count towards meeting the requirements of  a position on a “pro-rated basis.”  The bill further allows agencies to transfer an employee subject to the requirements of an applicable collective bargaining agreement, instead of DAS regulations.  The bill also increases from two months to six months the term that temporary employees may work during an emergency.

STUDY OF STATE HIRING PRACTICES: S.B. No. 1124 (“An Act Concerning A Study Of Pathways To State Employment”) would require the Commissioner of Administrative Services to conduct a study regarding the hiring practices of state agencies for positions in state service. Such study shall include, but need not be limited to: 1) the feasibility of eliminating requirements for college degrees for certain appointments to state classified services; and 2) the feasibility of establishing a program to provide applicants with alternative routes to appointment to state classified service. The Commissioner is then to submit a report with the findings of such study by January 1, 2024 to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee

TRANSPORTATION NETWORK DRIVERS: S.B. No. 1180 (“An Act Concerning Rideshare And Delivery Driver Minimum Standards”) would require transportation network companies (e.g., Uber) and third party delivery companies (e.g., DoorDash) to pay each of their drivers the greater of: (1) 85% of each passenger fare charged not including taxes, fees, surcharges, or tips; or (2) minimum pay per trip, which is set forth as the sum of a minimum of (a) $1.30 per mile the driver travels during “dispatch time” and “passenger transport time,” and (b) 60 cents per minute worked by the driver.  The bill also requires network companies to pay drivers: (1) the cost of any cancelled ride; (2) mileage reimbursement; and (3) other fees incurred during the trip in addition to the pay.  Such companies much provide receipts for its drivers (and passengers and users) for each trip, with certain required information.  This bill would require the Connecticut Commissioner of Transportation to communicate with the chief transportation officials of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey to make a reciprocity agreement for the purposes of allowing Connecticut network workers to pick up passengers in these other states and to allow network workers from these other states to pick up passengers in Connecticut.

WAGE/HOUR AND SUSPENSIONS: H.B. No. 6789 (“An Act Concerning Suspension Of Certain Employees For Violations Of Workplace Conduct Rules Prohibiting Harassment Or Workplace Violence”) would amend the state’s wage and hour laws to specifically provide that if a person employed in a “bona fide executive capacity” (as defined by state regulations) is absent from work for one or more full days as a result of a disciplinary suspension for violating a written workplace conduct rule prohibiting harassment or workplace violence, an employer may deduct from the wages of such employee an amount equal to the wages that would have been paid to such employee during such absence.   

PROMISSORY NOTES: S.B. No. 21 (“An Act Prohibiting Employers From Requiring An Employment Promissory Note As A Condition Of Employment”) would prohibit all employers from requiring employment promissory notes (mandating payment of monies upon an employee’s departure from employment) as a condition of employment. Currently, this prohibition only applies to employers with 26 or more employees.

MINIMUM WAGE (AND ELIMINATION OF TIP CREDIT): S.B. No. 1177 (“An Act Concerning One Fair Wage”) would remove the minimum wage law’s “tip credit” provision, which currently allows employers to pay hotel and restaurant staff and bartenders who customarily receive tips less than the minimum wage (i.e., $8.23/hour for bartenders and $6.38/hour for staff), so long as their tips make up the difference. The bill also would remove provisions that allow employers to pay less than the minimum wage to learners, apprentices, and people under age 18 (unless they are emancipated minors); under current law, unemancipated minors may generally be paid as low as 85% of the minimum wage for their first 90 days of employment.

CONSTRUCTION CONTRACT AND WAGE THEFT: H.B. No. 6792 (“An Act Concerning Wage Theft Responsibility”) contains provisions similar to a bill from the 2022 session of the General Assembly that did not pass.  This bill would provide that any contractor involved in a construction contract executed on or after October 1, 2023 shall assume liability for any debt resulting from an action brought under the state’s unpaid wage statute for wages owed to an employee and incurred by a subcontractor at any tier acting under, by or for the contractor or its subcontractors, for the employee's performance of labor.  In such an action brought against a subcontractor, the contractor shall be considered jointly and severally liable for any unpaid wages, benefits, wage supplements and any other remedies. The bill provides that any agreement executed on or after October 1, 2023 to waive or release liability assigned to a contractor under this bill would not be valid, but a contractor would retain the right to maintain an action against a subcontractor for the amount of owed wages that are paid by the contractor.  The bill would empower contractors to request from subcontractors certified payroll records to ensure compliance with the bill’s provisions; the bill provides that a subcontractor’s failure to comply with a request for such records/information shall be cause for a contractor to withhold payments owed to a subcontractor. The bill would not apply to “prevailing wage” contracts.

MORE WAGE AND HOUR INSPECTORS: H.B. No. 5854 (“An Act Concerning The Number Of Wage And Hour Inspectors At The Labor Department”) would increase the number of wage and hour inspectors at the Connecticut Department of Labor to at least 45 in order to monitor the increasing number of wage theft complaints in the state.

COMPENSATION FOR THE INCARCERATED: H.B. No. 5033 (“An Act Concerning Compensation Of Incarcerated Individuals”) would increase the minimum pay ranges for the compensation paid to inmates of Department of Correction facilities or departments for services they perform on the state’s behalf.  This bill would set pay ranges of $5 to $10 per week for inmates, with $35 per week for a position that requires “specialized skills or training.”

PREVAILING WAGE RATES FOR RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION: S.B. No. 1123 (“An Act Amending Codification Of Prevailing Wage Contract Rates) would provide that with respect to the prevailing wage rates for residential construction projects covered by the state’s prevailing wage statutes, the Commissioner of Labor must use the rates set in the collective bargaining agreements or understandings covering the same work in the same trade or occupation in the town where the project is being done.

Stay tuned for more summaries of proposed legislation approved by the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

Please contact any of Pullman & Comley's Labor and Employment Law attorneys should you have any questions.

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