Developments From The 2022 Session of The Connecticut General Assembly Affecting Employers (UPDATED)
General Assembly

We had originally written about employment-related legislation from the 2022 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly in the aftermath of the conclusion of the session.  The Aftermath: Developments from the 2022 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly Affecting Employers: Pullman & Comley (pullcom.com) Having had time to more fully digest the legislation, the following is an updated description of employment-related bills, which have all been signed by the Governor.  

NON-DISCRIMINATION/EMPLOYMENT & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIONS

Public Act 22-82:  An Act Concerning Online Dating Operators, The Creation Of A Grant Program To Reduce Occurrences Of Online Abuse And The Provision of Domestic Violence Training And Protections For Victims Of Domestic Violence.  This Act, which takes effect on October 1. 2022, adds status as a domestic violence victim as a protected class under Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”) (and prohibits discrimination against such persons).  The Act amends CFEPA to prohibit employers from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation (including a reasonable leave of absence) to an employee for the purpose of seeking attention to injuries caused by (or services relating to) domestic violence, unless the absence would cause an undue hardship to the employer.  Employers can request certain specified supporting documentation from employees with respect to a request for such a leave of absence; however, employers must maintain the confidentiality of information (to the extent permitted by law) regarding one’s status as a domestic violence victim.

The Act authorizes the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) to require employers with three or more employees to post in a prominent location information concerning domestic violence and the resources available to victims of domestic violence.  The Act requires each state agency (but not private employers) to provide a minimum of one hour of training and education related to domestic violence and the resources available to victims of domestic violence 1) to all employees by July 1, 2023, and 2) to all employees hired on or after January 1, 2023, not later than six months after they start work.  The Act sets forth the contents of such training, and these training requirements may be met by using an online training and education video (or other interactive method of training and education) to be developed by CHRO in conjunction with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (and made available at no cost to each state agency). 

Lastly, of great significance to many small employers throughout Connecticut (and seemingly unrelated to the stated focus of the Act), the Act lowers the threshold for the definition of an “employer” covered under the CFEPA from an employer employing three employees to an employer employing one employee or more.  The Act expands the definition of “employee" under CFEPA to include any elected or appointed official of a municipality, board, commission, counsel or other governmental body.

EMPLOYEE FREE SPEECH AND “CAPTIVE AUDIENCES”

Public Act 22-24:  An Act Protecting Employee Freedom Of Speech And Conscience.  This Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2022, prohibits employers from requiring employees to attend meetings (or listen to speech or view communications) sponsored by the employer, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer's opinion concerning religious or political matters.  This Act does NOT prohibit: 1) Employers from communicating to their employees any information that the employer is required by law to communicate or is necessary for employees to perform their job duties; 2) institutions of higher education from meeting or communicating with  employees as part of coursework, symposia, or an academic program at the institution; 3) “casual conversations” between employees (or a single employee) and an agent/representative of an employer, provided that participation in the conversations is not required; or 4) a requirement limited to an employer's managerial and supervisory employees.  The Act also does not apply to a religious corporation, entity, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the CFEPA with respect to speech on religious matters to employees who perform work connected with such entities’ activities.

In addition to these so-called “captive audience” provisions, the Act amends the state statute protecting employees from discipline or discharge due to their exercise of free speech (Connecticut General Statutes §31-51q) by limiting the damages available under it to lost wages/compensation, and thus eliminates any right to punitive damages, although attorney’s fees/costs remain available.  However, the Act also broadens Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-51q so as to prohibit employers from even threatening to subject an employee to discipline or discharge due to their exercise of free speech rights.

MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT

Public Act 22-39:  An Act Concerning Reemployment And The Municipal Employees' Retirement System, Conveyances Of Certain Land Or Interests In Land Of Nonprofit Corporations And State Contractor Prequalification.  This Act creates an exception to the prohibition on retired members of the Connecticut Municipal Employees' Retirement System (often known as “CMERS”) from receiving retirement allowances upon reemployment by a municipality for members who do not participate (i.e., receive benefits) in the System during such a period of reemployment.  The Act further permits 1) retired uniformed members of a paid fire department and 2) retired regular members of a paid municipal police department to still be able to receive retirement benefits, but not acquire further credit in the System, if such personnel are employed by a local or regional board of education in a public safety capacity after retirement.

LEAVE TO VOTE IN PROBATE COURT ELECTIONS

Public Act 22-129:  An Act Concerning Probate Court Operations.  Among other things, this Act expands upon a 2021 law that requires employers (through June 30, 2024) to grant employees, upon request, two hours of unpaid time off from their regularly scheduled workday to vote in regular state elections (and special elections for congresspersons or state legislators) so as to also require such leave for special elections for probate court judges.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

Public Act 22-64:  An Act Concerning Mental Health Needs Of And Services For Police Officers, Certain Requirements Regarding Police Training And Certain Reports.  Among other things, this Act extends the prohibition against discharge, discipline or discrimination against a police officer for seeking mental health services to include services provided as a result of a mandatory behavioral health assessment.

Second, by no later than July 1, 2023, the Act requires the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (“POST”) to, after consultation with persons with mental or physical disabilities and advocates on behalf of such people, develop a training curriculum for police officers regarding interactions with persons who have mental or physical disabilities.  It requires the development of a similar training curriculum for police officers regarding interactions with persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind.  On or after October 1, 2023, each police basic training or review training program conducted or administered by POST, the Division of State Police or a municipal police department shall include the developed curriculum.

Third, the Act creates a task force to study the mental health needs of law enforcement officers.  The task force is tasked with examining the mental health needs of law enforcement officers, listing programs that serve or could be available to serve the mental health needs of officers, identify barriers to accessing those programs and to make recommendations for policies, practices and legislation to address the mental health needs of officers.  The task force is required to submit a report not later than January 1, 2023, on its findings to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly.

Finally, the Act provides for several other agencies to make reports to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly.  These include that not later than January 1, 2023 the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at the University of Connecticut, in consultation with the United Way of Connecticut, shall submit a report including a study of a representative sample of 9-1-1 dispatch call data and an analysis of what percentage of those calls could be more appropriately directed to the 2-1-1- Infoline program.  Also not later than January 1, 2023, POST shall submit a report (1) providing the implementation status of the interactive electronic computer platform and any criteria used by the council to determine when it is appropriate to allow officers to complete certified review training using the platform, (2) determine whether any other required training after initial certification may be conducted through such an electronic computer platform or other on-line format without compromising the quality of the training, and (3) make recommendations for any legislation necessary to implement the council’s findings.  Again, not later than January 1, 2023, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services shall submit a report including an examination of the Community and Law Enforcement for Addiction Recovery project, including an analysis of whether such project has successfully met its goals and recommendations for improvement.

Public Act 22-66:  An Act Allowing Police Officers To Wear Religious Head Coverings As Part Of A Police Uniform.  This Act provides that not later than October 1, 2022, each law enforcement unit shall adopt or amend a policy to permit a police officer to wear a religious head covering in accordance with the police officer's religious beliefs while the police officer is on duty and wearing a uniform or other authorized attire, except where the use of tight-fitting protective headgear is required by such law enforcement unit.

Public Act 22-119:  An Act Concerning Accreditation Standards For Law Enforcement Units.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-294ee, POST and the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection or the commissioner's designee, are required to jointly develop, adopt and revise, as necessary, minimum standards and practices for the administration and management of law enforcement units, as defined in section 7-294a.  This Act sets forth procedures and timelines for the Council to establish minimum standards and practices. These minimum standards, as set forth under the Act, must now be divided into three (3) tiers and must be issued no later than January 2023.  A certification of compliance shall be issued to each unit that meets such minimum standards.

Tier one shall consist of minimum standards designed to protect law enforcement units from liability, enhance the delivery of services and improve public confidence in law enforcement.  Tier two shall consist of minimum standards for the administration, management and operation of law enforcement units.  Tier three shall consist of higher minimum standards for the administration, management and operation of law enforcement units.

The Act places deadlines under which law enforcement units must meet these new minimum standards.  On and after January 1, 2023 and until December 31, 2023, each unit must be certified, at a minimum, as meeting the requirements for state accreditation tier one as developed by POST or meet a higher level of accreditation standards developed by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (known by the acronym “CALEA”).  On and after January 1, 2024 and until December 31, 2025, each unit must be certified at a minimum of meeting the accreditation requirements of tier two or a higher level of accreditation status by the Commission. Finally, on and after January 1, 2026, all units must meet the certification requirements of all three tiers.       If a law enforcement unit fails to meet or maintain these minimum certification requirements, “[POST] shall work with the law enforcement unit to obtain and maintain such certification or accreditation standards.”

In addition, Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-294d(g)(1) empowers POST to set forth guidance including, but not limited to, reporting procedures to be followed by law enforcement officers for certificate suspension, cancellation or revocation.  Under the Act, a law enforcement unit’s failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in POST revoking the certificate of compliance with the appropriate state-accreditation tier or tiers.

PREVAILING WAGE ENFORCEMENT

Public Act 22-17:  An Act Concerning Wage Theft.  As of July 1, 2023, this Act authorizes the Connecticut Commissioner of Labor to issue increased fines and citations (i.e., $5,000 per violation) to contractors and subcontractors who violate the state's “prevailing wage” laws.  The Act requires the commissioner to maintain a list of contractors/subcontractors that during the three preceding years violated the prevailing wage laws or entered into a settlement with the commissioner to resolve such claims.  For each contractor/subcontractor on this list, the commissioner shall record: 1) The nature of the violation; 2) the total amount of wages and fringe benefits making up the violation or agreed upon in any settlement; and 3) the total amount of civil penalties and fines.  The commissioner shall review the list each year for the preceding rolling three-year period and may refer for debarment any contractor/subcontractor that committed a violation during this period.  The commissioner shall refer for debarment any contractor/subcontractor that entered into one or more settlement agreements where the total of all settlements within the period exceeds $50,000 in back wages or fringe benefits or civil penalties or fines. Any such contractor/subcontractor may request a hearing before the commissioner to contest such a finding.

CANCER RELIEF BENEFITS FOR FIREFIGHTERS

Public Act 22-139:  An Act Concerning Adoption Of The Recommendations Of The Task Force To Study Cancer Relief Benefits For Firefighters.  Effective July 1, 2024, this Act requires that each town annually contribute $10 per firefighter within each municipality to the State of Connecticut’s existing firefighters’ cancer relief account.  Such contribution is to be based on the number of career and volunteer firefighters within each municipality, and only applies to firefighters who have submitted to annual physical examinations subsequent to entry into such service that did not reveal evidence of cancer or propensity for cancer, have not smoked cigarettes within fifteen years and have worked at least five years in a specified fire fighter or related position.  In addition, the Act requires the Workers’ Compensation Commission to 1) maintain a record of all firefighters’ workers’ compensation claims made due to a cancer diagnosis, and 2) report annually to the General Assembly regarding this record.  Finally, the Act also requires the State Comptroller to conduct a feasibility study on providing pension benefits to firefighters in circumstances where a firefighter’s required pension service years are not met due to early retirement resulting from a qualifying cancer diagnosis.  NOTE: A prior version of this bill, that would have created a rebuttable presumption for workers’ compensation benefits for certain cancer diagnoses, did not pass.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENCES AND PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORDS

Public Act 22-88:  An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences Of Criminal Convictions On Occupational Licensing.  This Act, which takes effect on October 1, 2022, limits the ability of state licensing agencies to revoke, suspend, or deny certain occupational licenses on account of the commission of a felony provided any action is based upon (1) the nature of the conviction and its relationship to the license holder's ability to safely or competently perform the duties or responsibilities associated with such license, (2) information pertaining to the degree of rehabilitation of the license holder, and (3) the time elapsed since the conviction or release.  Among the practitioners affected by this revision would be licensed clinical and Master’s-degreed social workers, art therapists, dietitian-nutritionists, architects, public accountants, certain tradespersons, estheticians, eyelash and nail technicians.  The Act also extends the prohibition on the Department of Public Health’s summarily taking action with respect to practitioners for conviction of a felony to cover licenses for embalmers and funeral directors.

TECHNICAL AND MINOR CHANGES

The titles of Public Act 22-67 (“An Act Concerning Technical and Other Changes To The Labor Department Statutes”) and Public Act 22-89 (“An Act Concerning Minor And Technical Changes To The Workers' Compensation Act”) largely speak for themselves.  

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

Special Act 22-13 (“An Act Concerning Unemployment Compensation Experience Rates”) requires the Connecticut Department of Labor to study businesses that had their experience rates increase despite last year’s  passage of Public Act 21-5 (“An Act Concerning The Removal Of COVID–19 Related Layoffs From The Unemployment Compensation Experience Account”), and to then submit a report with its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee by January 1, 2023.  The report will include identification of 1) employers that had increased experience rates, 2) how many people were impacted, and 3) the cost to both the state and the employer.

JUNETEENTH

Public Act 22-128:  An Act Establishing Juneteenth Independence Day As A Legal Holiday.  Effective October 1, 2022, this Act establishes a new state holiday on June 19th - Juneteenth Independence Day. 

TECHNICAL AND MINOR CHANGES

The titles of Public Act 22-67 (“An Act Concerning Technical and Other Changes To The Labor Department Statutes”) and Public Act 22-89 (“An Act Concerning Minor And Technical Changes To The Workers' Compensation Act”) largely speak for themselves.  

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, THE “BUDGET IMPLEMENTER”

On May 7, 2022, Governor Lamont signed, Public Act 22-118 (“An Act Adjusting The State Budget For The Biennium Ending June 30, 2023, Concerning Provisions Related To Revenue, School Construction And Other Items To Implement The State Budget And Authorizing And Adjusting Bonds Of The State”), which, as it title suggests, contains provisions ostensibly intended to implement the state budget.  Not surprisingly, this 739-page legislation contains numerous provisions that are not necessarily budget-related.  Here are some of the Act’s employment-related provisions. 

Connecticut Retirement Security Program

The Act eliminates the Connecticut Retirement Security Authority (CRSA) and makes the Office of the State Comptroller its successor for administering the retirement program. The Act converts CRSA’s board of directors to an advisory board and renames the program the “Connecticut Retirement Security Program” (as opposed to the former “Connecticut Retirement Security Exchange” title).

State and Non-Unionized Employee Wage/Benefits

The Act increases judicial salaries by about 5%.

The Act requires each state agency to apply to its nonunion state employees the following terms from the agreement between the state and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (“SEBAC”): 1) for 2021-22, a $2,500 lump sum payment and 2.5% base annual salary increase; 2) for 2022-23, a 2.5% increase plus step increases, annual increments, or their equivalents, and a $1,000 lump sum payment); and 3) for 2023-24, a 2.5% increase plus step increases, annual increments, or their equivalents.

The Act requires health insurance coverage for children, stepchildren, or other dependent children of state or nonstate public employees via the State Partnership Plan to continue until at least the end of the calendar year after the earlier of when they 1) obtained coverage through their own employment, or 2) turn age 26.

Teacher Retirement System

The Act excludes school business administrators who hold a certificate with an administration endorsement from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS).

The Act limits TRS eligibility for professional employees of the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to only those hired before July 1, 2022.

The Act explicitly includes Connecticut Technical and Career System professional employees within the TRS.

The Act increases from $220 to $440 per person the monthly health insurance subsidy under the TRS for eligible retired teachers (and their spouses or surviving spouses or disabled dependents) who receive health insurance coverage from the retiree’s last employing board of education.

Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave

Similar to non-paid FMLA leave statutes, this Act makes it a violation of Connecticut’s  paid family and medical leave law (PFML) for an employer to: 1) interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right provided by the PFML, or 2) discharge or cause to be discharged, or otherwise discriminate against someone for opposing any practice made unlawful by the PFML or exercising the rights afforded under the PFML.

Unemployment Compensation

For 2022-2023, the Act reduces the unemployment tax rate that new employers must pay by 0.2% (from 1.4% to 1.2%).

Premium/Pandemic Pay

The Act establishes a “Premium Pay Program” that will be administered by the Comptroller to pay out of state funds to private sector employees deemed eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in “phases 1a or 1b” of the vaccination program and who were employed during the period of the COVID-19 state of emergency, lump sums of $200 to $1,000 using available appropriations, on a first come, first-served basis.  In order to be eligible for these benefits, employees must apply by October 1, 2022.  The Act further sets forth the process & criteria for applying for such pay.

The Act also provides that no employer shall: 1) Discharge or in any manner discipline or discriminate against any employee because the employee has filed an application for pandemic pay, or 2) deliberately misinform or dissuade an employee from filing an application for payment from the Connecticut program. The Act provides a private cause of action for those alleging a violation of this provision. 

Homemaker-Companion Agency and No-Hire Clauses

The Act prohibits (as against public policy) contracts between a homemaker-companion agency or home health agency and a client from including a “no-hire” clause that, should the client directly hire an agency employee: 1) imposes a financial penalty; 2) assesses any charges or fees, including legal fees; or (3) contains any language that can create grounds for a breach of contract assertion or a claim for damages or injunctive relief.  (NOTE that current law already largely bars “covenants not to compete” in employment contracts for homemaker, companion, or home health services.)

Related Practices & Industries

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