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New Connecticut Labor & Employment Laws 2021

The 2021 Connecticut legislative session began January 6, 2021 and ended June 9, 2021. Several large and impactful pieces of legislature were passed by Governor Ned Lamont while some are still awaiting the Governor's signature. Among the updated and new Connecticut labor and employment laws were the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, breastfeeding in the workplace, compensation disclosure, the legalization of marijuana, and much more.

Natural Hair Protection for Employees

House Bill No. 6515 is a new law that acts as an update to the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act. The amendment has expanded the umbrella covering what factors and traits must be protected under fair employment in the state of Connecticut. 

While the law had previously only covered discrimination against employees based on protected traits such as religion, national origin, alienage, color, race, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, blindness, mental disability, physical disability, and status as a veteran, the definition of what falls under the category of race has been modified and expanded. The new bill states that "race" will include ethnic traits historically associated with a specific race with hair texture and protective hairstyles at the forefront. 

Protective hairstyles specified:

  • Braids
  • Cornrows
  • Locs 
  • Twists
  • Bantu Knots
  • Afros
  • Afro puffs

All employers with three or more employees must currently comply with these requirements. 

Breastfeeding in the workplace

House Bill No. 5158 is an act concerning breastfeeding in the workplace. This new law modifies existing Connecticut law regarding breastfeeding in the workplace. Specifically, the law addresses the use of lactation rooms and the accommodations that come with them. 

Provided the absence of any undue hardship, employers must not only make a reasonable effort to provide a room or location other than a bathroom stall where the employee can express their milk in private, but the aforementioned room must also contain some specific amenities. 

This breastfeeding room or location must: 

  • Be free from any kind of intrusion and shielded from the public while such employee expresses breast milk
  • Include or be situated near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store their breast milk
  • Include access to an electrical outlet

The new Connecticut law will be effective starting October 1, 2021 for all employers with one or more employees. 

Disclosure of salary ranges 

House Bill No. 6380 is an act concerning the disclosure of salary ranges for vacant positions. According to the changed employment law employers must disclose the wage range for a vacant position to any job applicants either before or at the time that an offer of compensation is made, or at the applicants request (whichever occurs first). 

Other instances in which an employer must disclose the wage range for a position includes:

  • Upon hire
  • Upon a position change or promotion 
  • Upon the employee's FIRST request for such information

How is "wage range" defined in this new Connecticut law? 

Connecticut wage range is defined as the range of wages an employer anticipates relying on when setting wages for a position. It may include reference to any applicable pay scale, previously determined range of wages for the position, actual range of wages for those employees currently holding comparable positions, or the employer's budgeted amount for the position. 

If an employee can demonstrate employment discrimination on the basis of sex, and that they are paid less than the rate at which the employer pays employees of the opposite sex for "comparable" work (which changed from "equal" work), then an employer is required to prove there's a reason for the pay differential beyond discrimination.

Whether or not work is considered comparable is determined by a composite of skill, effort, responsibility, and the conditions that the work is performed under. 

Employers can justify differences in pay through systems that can include a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential system based on a bona fide factor other than sex. 

Other factors that can warrant a difference in pay include, but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Training
  • Credential 
  • Skill
  • Geographic location 
  • Experience 

The new Connecticut law will be effective starting October 1, 2021 for all employers with one or more employees. 

Employer rules concerning cannabis

Senate Bill No. 1201 is an act concerning the adult use of marijuana or "weed". Legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older started on July 1, 2021, while the commercial sale of marijuana in the state of Connecticut is expected to begin sometime in May of 2022.

This very large bill creates a whole new set of cannabis-related rules for Connecticut employers. Some of the things employers should keep an eye on regarding the new law include:

There will be two sets of cannabis rules for employers:

One set for employers that are exempt such as manufacturers, schools, and justice-related positions, and for positions that are exempt such as positions that require driving, and that are subject to federal drug testing laws.

One set for all remaining employers not covered by the first set.

For more information, read the Connecticut Cannabis Guide for Employers here.... 

The summary of the bill was 184 pages. It is recommended that employers familiarize themselves with the new laws, most of which is included in the bill will go into effect July 1, 2022.

Other new Connecticut labor and employment related provisions

Call centers relocating from Connecticut

A new notice requirement and restrictions are now in place for call centers relocating from Connecticut. 

Call centers that relocate to a foreign country will be ineligible to receive state financial support for five years after the relocation. Organizations must remit the value of any state financial support they received over the previous five years.

This new legislation applies to call centers with 50 or more employees that...

  1. Work at least 20 hours a week or have been employed for six months minimum
  2. Work at least 1,500 hours in the aggregate per week. 

The new Connecticut law will become effective as of October 1, 2021. 

New employee time off availability for voting

Work has made it very difficult for some people to get out and vote in a time where such pivotal moments are being decided by the people. Governor Ned Lamont has signed into law a requirement for Connecticut employers to provide time off to vote:

  • Each employer must grant employees two hours of unpaid time off for state elections. 
  • Eligibility includes any employee in the case of a state election, or special election for a United States senator, representative in Congress, state senator or state representative
  • Employees must request time off not less than two working days prior to the election

The new Connecticut law is effective now through June 30, 2024

Updates to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA) 

Updates were made to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act that should help more people get the time off that they need to care for their loved ones. These updates include:

  • Removal of the "hours worked" requirement
  • Leave amount changed to 12 weeks time off (or up to 16 weeks for military caregiver) in a 12-month period
    • Additional 2 weeks of leave may be available for incapacitation during pregnancy
  • Employers can require employees to use accrued time off but must allow employee to keep up to two weeks of accrued paid time off

The new Connecticut laws will go into effect January 1, 2022 for all employers with one or more employees working for them. 

Workers' compensation claim protections

Prior to the expansion Connecticut law prohibited employers from terminating or discriminating against any employee who filed a workers'' compensation claim. It also protected those who exercised their rights under the workers' compensation law. The bill has since been updated to further protect employees from:

  • Being disciplined for filing a claim or exercising their rights
  • Being intentionally misinformed regarding a claim 
  • Being dissuaded from filing a claim 

The new Connecticut law is currently in effect.

Other legislation currently awaiting governor's signature

  • An Act Deterring Age Discrimination in Employment Applications
  • An Act Expanding Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Certain Mental or Emotional Impairments Suffered by Health Care Providers in Connection with COVID-19
  • An Act Concerning the Duties and Responsibilities of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
  • An Act Codifying Prevailing Wage Contract Rates
  • An Act Requiring Employers to Recall Certain Laid-off Workers in Order of Seniority [Relates to COVID-19 Lay Offs]

HR Business Partners will work with our clients to update their policies and answer their questions regarding these additional workplace mandates. If you would like to learn more about the HR consulting services we provide, please contact us today.

If you would like to receive insight on compliance mandates, please subscribe to our HR alerts and updates.

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Topics:Connecticut HRCompliance & LawConnecticut Human ResourcesConnecticut Payroll

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