Getting to Work: Latest Employment & Labor Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly (January 31st Public Hearing)
General Assembly

On January 4, 2023, the 2023 session of the Connecticut General Assembly began. The session is scheduled to adjourn on June 7, 2023.  Numerous proposed bills affecting Connecticut employers and employees will be unleashed during the session, most of which will never see the light of day.

The General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee will be where the action initially occurs, and the Committee has gotten to work.  On Tuesday, January 31, 2023, the Committee will conduct a public hearing on numerous proposed bills.  The hearing will take place at 1:30 PM in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building (and via Zoom and YouTube Live). Many of these bills (for example, expanding workers compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress injuries) have been considered in prior legislative sessions but never came to fruition. 

The following are summaries of the bills that are the subject of the hearing:

S.B. No. 910: An Act Concerning Permanent Partial Disability Benefits and Pension Offsets. This bill would prohibit any municipality or special taxing district with a pension and retirement system from diminishing or eliminating any rights or benefits under such a system due to a retiree’s receipt of “permanent partial disability” workers’ compensation benefits. The bill indicates that it shall not be construed to interfere with or diminish the provisions of any previously negotiated collective bargaining agreement.

S.B. No. 911: An Act Increasing the Threshold Amount for Felony Unemployment Compensation Fraud.  This bill would increase the threshold amount for felony unemployment compensation fraud to fraud that is more than $2,000.  Currently, the threshold amount is $500.

S.B. No. 912: An Act Concerning the Status of Probate Court System Employees. This bill would allow Probate Court employees to be considered state employees for the purpose of collective bargaining rights.

S.B. No. 913: An Act Expanding Workers' Compensation Coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries for All Employees.  This bill would expand workers' compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder for witnessing certain traumatic events (e.g., certain deaths or maimings) to include all employees as of January 1, 2024; this benefit is currently limited to certain first responders.

H.B. No. 6549: An Act Concerning Modification of and Repealing Obsolete Provisions and Statutes Relevant to the Labor Department. As the title suggests, this bill would repeal obsolete provisions and statutes relevant to the Labor Department

H.B. No. 6550: An Act Requiring Notice of Discontinuance of Prescription Medication Under a Workers' Compensation Claim. This bill would require employers or insurers acting on behalf of employers to 1) provide notice of a proposed discontinuance or reduction of coverage of an employee's prescription medication under the Workers’ Compensation Act (with the bill setting forth what the notice must contain), and 2) obtain approval from a Workers’ Compensation Commission Administrative Law Judge before such discontinuance or reduction takes effect.

H.B. No. 6551: An Act Concerning Standard Wages for Certain Service Workers and Paid Leave. This bill would grant to workers covered by the “standard wage” applicable to certain state contracts payment of a standard rate to cover paid leave, with the amount of such paid leave to be determined by the State Department of Labor (similar to the standard wage rate). 

H.B. No. 6552: An Act Concerning the Connecticut Retirement Security Program.  In additional to making technical changes with respect to the governance and administration of the Connecticut Retirement Security Program, this bill would provide that no person shall be subject to civil liabilities for the debts, obligations or liabilities of the Program and that the Comptroller shall indemnify and hold harmless such individuals who act as a Program Advisory Board member. The bill would also expressly provide that employers shall not be held liable for an employee's decision whether or not to participate in the program or for the investment decisions of the Board or of any enrollee. The bill would also permit the Comptroller to enter into intergovernmental agreements, memoranda of cooperation, or memoranda of agreement with another state or territory of the United States relating to areas of collaboration, including but not limited to data collection, shared program administration and financial services, pooled investment of assets, marketing and outreach support, program evaluation and research, data collection and participant privacy.

H.B. No. 6553: An Act Concerning Volunteer Fire Departments and Ambulance Companies and the Definition Of Employer Under the State Occupational Safety and Health Act. This bill would provide that volunteer fire departments and ambulance companies are to be considered employers under Connecticut’s OSHA laws, except that those departments and companies governed by the federal OSHA law would continue to be regulated by the federal law. 

S.B. No. 21 An Act Prohibiting Employers from Charging Employees for Training Costs Upon Separation from Employment. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would amend Connecticut law to prohibit new employment agreements issued in Connecticut from charging employees for training costs upon an employee leaving employment.

S.B. No. 228 An Act Concerning Employees Loss of Health Care Coverage as a Result of a Labor Dispute. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would amend Connecticut law to allow employees to obtain and maintain health insurance through the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange should they lose employer- provided health insurance as a result of a labor dispute.

To repeat my standard warning:  The fact that a public hearing has been scheduled on these bills is not necessarily an indication that the Committee will pass them, but it is at least an indication that they are under serious consideration.  When these bills advance toward a vote by the Committee and the full General Assembly, we will provide more detail as to their contents.  The deadline for the Committee to pass and forward bills out of committee is March 21, 2023.

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