Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly: February 21st Public Hearing

On Thursday, February 21, 2019, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee will conduct a public hearing on numerous proposed bills.  The hearing will take place at 2:30 P.M. in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.   Of note is that several of these bills (specifically, H.B. Nos. 5637, 6926, 6930, 6935, and 6936) appear to be in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (June 27, 2018), which held that the involuntary withholding of “agency fees” from non-union members violates their First Amendment “free speech” rights.

Unfortunately, as one call see from the following summaries, all of the proposed bills at issue were introduced and remain in a skeletal/concept form, without any details:

Proposed S.B. No. 359 AN ACT EXTENDING WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTIONS TO EMPLOYEES OF BUSINESSES RECEIVING FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE STATE. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would extend “whistleblower” protections to employees of entities receiving economic development financial assistance from the state who report or provide information relating to such entity’s failure to meet any contractual obligation or satisfy any condition of the financial assistance agreement.

Proposed S.B. No. 549 AN ACT CONCERNING FIREFIGHTER WORK WEEKS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would eliminate the 56 hour average work week cap for unspecified “certain” permanent paid firefighters.

Proposed S.B. No. 660 AN ACT CONCERNING PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY AND PENSION OFFSETS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would prevent the classification of “permanent partial disability” settlements as wages for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits.

Proposed S.B. No. 698 AN ACT CONCERNING COMPLAINTS OF WORKPLACE VIOLENCE OR ABUSIVE CONDUCT INVOLVING STATE EMPLOYEES. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require the Department of Administrative Services to report to the Governor and the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee, summarizing the number of complaints of workplace violence or abusive conduct involving state employees and the outcomes of such complaints in the preceding year. This report would also include recommendations for policies and procedures to prevent, report, evaluate and investigate such complaints.

Proposed H.B. No. 5637 AN ACT CONCERNING CLEAR AND CONSPICUOUS STATEMENTS REGARDING STATE AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES’ RIGHT TO OPT OUT OF UNION MEMBERSHIP. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require that state and municipal collective bargaining agreements (and “related employee notices”) include a clear and conspicuous statement of an employee’s right to opt out of membership in the union.

Proposed H.B. No. 6346 AN ACT CONCERNING THE REVIEW OF MUNICIPAL ARBITRATION AWARDS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would “provide the same relief for all statutory deadlines concerning the meeting and reviewing of municipal arbitration awards by a municipality’s legislative body based on the state and federal rules of procedure.”  If this helps, the stated purpose of this vague bill is to “allow for uniformity in meeting and reviewing arbitration awards” by a municipality’s legislative body.

Proposed H.B. No. 6630 AN ACT REQUIRING INDIVIDUALS WHO INSTALL SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEMS TO COMPLETE AN ELECTRICIAN APPRENTICESHIP. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require individuals who install solar energy systems to first complete an electrician apprenticeship before installing such systems on residential or commercial facilities.

Proposed H.B. No. 6923 AN ACT CONCERNING PER DIEM EQUITY FOR STATE BOARD OF MEDIATION AND ARBITRATION ARBITRATORS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would ensure per diem compensation “equity” for state board of mediation and arbitration arbitrators.

Proposed H.B. No. 6926 AN ACT REQUIRING PUBLIC EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE EXCLUSIVE REPRESENTATIVES WITH CERTAIN EMPLOYEE-RELATED INFORMATION. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require any public employer to provide an exclusive representative with the following information for all employees in the bargaining unit at least every 120 days, unless more frequent or more detailed information is required by a memorandum of understanding: (1) Name, job title, department and work location, and (2) if it is part of the employers’ records, the home address, telephone number and email address on file with the employer.

Proposed H.B. No. 6927 AN ACT CONCERNING WAGE THEFT AND DEBARMENT. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would establish reciprocity with other states so that contractors who are debarred for wage theft in those states are also recognized as debarred in Connecticut.

Proposed H.B. No. 6931 AN ACT CONCERNING DOMESTIC WORKERS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would (1) require the minimum fair wage to apply to domestic workers, (2) expand workers’ compensation coverage to include domestic workers who work 15 hours or more per week, (3) require employers to provide paid sick leave to domestic workers in their employ regardless of the number of employees such employer employs, and (4) add domestic workers to the definition of employees that are subject to the protections afforded by the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Proposed H.B. No. 6933 AN ACT REQUIRING DISCLOSURE OF THE SALARY RANGE OF A VACANT EMPLOYMENT POSITION. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require employers to disclose to applicants the salary range for an advertised vacant employment position.

Proposed H.B. No. 6930 AN ACT CONCERNING UNION ACCESS TO AND NOTIFICATION OF NEW PUBLIC EMPLOYEE ORIENTATIONS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require any public employer to (1) provide the union for a collective bargaining unit with access to public employee orientations at which new employees are advised of their employment status or employee rights, benefits, duties and responsibilities or other employment-related matters, to explain the union’s role and benefits offered and to sign up new members, and (2) provide the union with at least ten days’ prior notice of any such orientation.

Proposed H.B. No. 6935 AN ACT CONCERNING THE RIGHT OF A PUBLIC EMPLOYEE TO JOIN OR SUPPORT A UNION. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require a public employer to “meet and confer” with the exclusive union bargaining representative prior to issuing a mass communication to its employees or applicants regarding the rights of employees to join or support a union, or not do so. The proposed bill states that if the parties are not able to come to an agreement on the content of the employer’s mass communication, and the employer wishes to go forward with the mass communication, the employer shall include the union’s communication simultaneously with the mass communication.

Proposed H.B. No. 6936 AN ACT CLARIFYING THE AUTHORIZATION PROCESS FOR EMPLOYEE PAYROLL DEDUCTIONS. As currently written, this skeletal proposed bill would require public employers to honor the terms of each employee’s payroll deduction authorization, subject to the following conditions: (1) The employee may only revoke the authorization pursuant to the terms of the authorization he or she signed, (2) deductions shall start the pay period after the employer receives notification of the authorization, (3) requests to authorize dues or other deductions shall be directed to the union rather than the employer, (4) requests to revoke or change the authorization shall be directed to the union rather than the employer, (5) a union need not provide an employer a copy of the employee’s authorization unless a dispute arises about the existence or terms of the authorization, and (6) a union shall indemnify the employer for any claims made regarding such deduction.

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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 have been fully drafted (as opposed to their current skeletal/concept format), and if they advance toward a vote by the Committee and the full General Assembly, we will provide more detail as to their contents.