The Connecticut legislative session kicked off on January 6, 2021, ushering in a new style of governing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Last year, the legislative session was already underway when the crisis hit and caused extreme limitations in the work that was conducted. This year, the newly seated legislature will utilize a nearly full remote session to accomplish the abundance of work that must be completed during long session years.
Connecticut’s Labor and Public Employees Committee (the “Labor Committee”), the committee that focuses on the employer employee relationship, has already raised over twenty concepts and is anticipated to raise significantly more. Some of the concepts that have been proposed include topics previously circulated such as limitations on non-compete agreements, prevention of captive audience meetings, and legalization of recreational marijuana. Many new proposals are borne from the COVID-19 crisis.
One relatively new proposal that the Labor Committee will evaluate is the codification of the rebuttable presumption that an employee, diagnosed with COVID-19 during a specific time frame, contracted the virus at work. This concept was first introduced by executive order of Governor Lamont but requires legislative action to survive the eventual termination of his executive authority.
The mass shift to “work from home” caused by the pandemic also prompted the Labor Committee to begin exploring if employers should be required to reimburse employees for certain expenditures incurred when working from home. A small number of states, such as California, New Hampshire, and Montana, require reimbursement of a myriad of expenses such as home use of internet, utility costs, and cell phone data. Here, the initial proposal focuses on cell phone data but has the potential to expand to cover additional expenses.
The Labor Committee will also evaluate expanding workers’ compensation benefits to include coverage for emotional injuries that do not arise out of physical injury or occupational disease. While the specific details of this proposal are not yet identified, it is probable that Connecticut will look to states that have already implemented similar legislation. For example, California allows employees who have been employed for six months to receive unemployment compensation for certain psychological injuries that are at least 50% caused by the workplace. It is notable that Senator Looney, Senate President Pro Tempore, has proposed this concept, signaling that it may be a legislative priority.
Proposals have also been offered to eliminate the tip credit and subminimum wage for disabled persons and to require employers to disclose independent contractors to the state employee new hire system. The latter will assist in ensuring that child support garnishments are effective against independent contractors, but employers should be mindful that such reporting may increase review of employee classifications.
Overall, these concepts are still in their infancy, but it is recommended that employers monitor developments and voice their opinion on any bill or concept that may impact their business, either in a positive or negative manner. Many legislators are guided by the experiences of business owners and such testimony can help design the final legislation. Our team at Carmody will continue to analyze enacted legislation to assist businesses on compliance in the ever changing employment landscape.
Stephanie E. Cummings practices with Carmody’s Labor and Employment team and has experience in a variety of additional areas such as corporate law, personal injury, real estate, trust and estates and general civil litigation.
This information is for educational purposes only to provide general information and a general understanding of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not establish any attorney-client relationship.