Latest Developments from the Connecticut General Assembly: February 25th Public Hearing

shutterstock_146730020On Thursday, February 25, 2016, the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee will conduct a public hearing on several proposed bills.  One of the bills to be discussed would prevent employers from requiring job applicants to disclose their criminal histories until after they have been made a conditional offer of employment; certain types of positions would be exempt from this new restriction.  Another bill of interest would expand workers’ compensation coverage so as to include individuals who suffer from severe mental or emotional impairments linked to witnessing the death or maiming of a person via the violent acts of another person; this type of expansion of Connecticut’s Workers’ Compensation Act has been proposed several times since the tragic occurrence of the Sandy Hook shootings in December of 2012.  In addition, in a possible bow to modernity, one of the proposed bills would allow employers to pay employees via “payroll cards.”

The following is a listing (with a brief description) of all of the proposed bills that are the subject of the upcoming public hearing:

1. S.B. No. 101 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE AND SOLE PROPRIETORS.  This bill would allow certain sole proprietors who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance to be eligible to work on public works projects.

2. S.B. No. 102 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AWARDS AND ATTORNEY FEES.  This bill would require a health insurer who files suit against an employer that contested an employee’s claim for workers’ compensation to transfer 20% of any amount recovered by the health insurer to the claimant, and specifies that no attorneys’ fees shall be payable from that transferred amount.

3. S.B. No. 134 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING SEVERE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL IMPAIRMENT AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVERAGE. This bill would expand workers’ compensation coverage to individuals suffering from a severe mental or emotional impairment as a direct result of witnessing the death or “maiming” of a human being that was caused by a violent act committed by another human being.

4. S.B. No. 210 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LIABILITY FOR INDIVIDUALS RECEIVING SERVICES FROM PERSONAL CARE ATTENDANTS.  This bill would shift workers’ compensation liability for personal care attendants from the consumer to the State of Connecticut by considering such personal care attendants to be “state employees” for the purposes of the Workers Compensation Act.

5. S.B. No. 211 (RAISED) AN ACT ALLOWING EMPLOYERS TO PAY WAGES USING PAYROLL CARDS. This bill would allow employers to pay wages to employees via “payroll cards” (provided that the employee voluntarily consents to such a payment mechanism), and would also allow certain wage and hour information provided by an employer to employees to be delivered electronically.  A “payroll card” is defined as a stored value card used by an employee to access wages from a payroll card account established at a financial institution by an employer and that is redeemable (at the employee’s election) at merchants or service providers, bank branches or automated teller machines.  A “payroll card” does not include a gift certificate.

6. H.B. No. 5237 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING FAIR CHANCE EMPLOYMENT.   This bill would prevent employers from requiring certain types of employees or prospective employees to disclose any criminal history until the employer has made a conditional offer of employment to such employee or prospective employee.  Certain categories of employees are excepted from this mandate.

7. H.B. No. 5238 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE REMOVAL OF CERTAIN POSITIONS FROM THE ENUMERATED LIST OF POSITIONS THAT ARE EXEMPT FROM CLASSIFIED SERVICE.   This bill would remove certain specified state positions from the list of positions that are exempt from the classified service requirements/protections.

8. H.B. No. 5260 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING DOMESTIC SERVICE AND OVERTIME PAY.  This bill would allow an employer and an employee providing domestic service to agree in writing to exclude meal times and certain periods of free time from the calculation of hours worked.

9. H.B. No. 5261 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING OPERATORS OF ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, COACHES AND REFEREES AND THE EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP.   This bill would provide that no employer-employee relationship shall be deemed to exist between any operator of any organized athletic activity (whether the operator is a municipality, non-profit entity, or a business) and any individual who is retained by such an operator as a coach or referee of such athletic activity, provided that the operator and individual may mutually agree (in writing) to enter into an employer-employee relationship.

10. H.B. No. 5262 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVERAGE FOR CURRENT AND FORMER UNIFORMED MEMBERS OF PAID OR VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENTS.  This bill would provide workers’ compensation for current and former uniformed members of a paid or volunteer fire department who suffer from certain diseases specified in the bill as a result of performing their jobs.

The hearing will take place at 2:30 P.M. in Room 2A of the Legislative Office Building.   

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 these bills, but it is at least an indication that such bills are under serious consideration.  When these bills have been fully drafted, and should they advance toward a vote by the Committee, we will provide more detail as to their contents.