Which issues would you most highlight to someone new to your state?
- Employee/contractor misclassification – Connecticut has a narrow definition of “independent contractor,” and the Connecticut Department of Labor has been aggressively pursuing claims of misclassification.
- Exempt/non-exempt misclassification – Connecticut law does not recognize all of the exemptions provided in the Fair Labor Standards Act (e.g., the exemption for computer professionals), so it is a mistake to rely exclusively on federal law when classifying employees for purposes of overtime.
- Discrimination claims – Connecticut has broad statutory protections against discrimination, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- Drug testing – Connecticut permits the testing of employees if there are grounds for reasonable suspicion, but limits random drug testing to designated safety-sensitive positions.
What do you consider unique to those doing business in your state?
Connecticut has a paid sick leave statute that requires most employers with 50 or more employees in the state to provide up to 40 hours per year of paid sick leave to certain employees (e.g., service workers).
Is there any general advice you would give in the labor/employment area?
In many areas, Connecticut law provides more protection to employees than federal law; do not assume that compliance with federal law will be sufficient to comply with state law.
Proposals for reform
Are there any noteworthy proposals for reform in your state?
Connecticut’s legislature is considering proposals to broaden the coverage of the paid sick leave statute and to provide more protection for speech by employees.
What are the emerging trends in employment law in your state, including the interplay with other areas of law, such as firearms legislation, legalization of marijuana and privacy?
Connecticut has legalized the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions. Employers may not discriminate against employees or applicants because they are authorized users of medical marijuana. It remains to be seen how this will play out in practice.
What state-specific laws govern the employment relationship?
Most employment-related laws are found in Title 31 of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, which bars discrimination in employment, is found in Title 46b. Connecticut’s version of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act is in Title 35.
Who do these cover, including categories of workers?
They generally cover all employees. Further, Title 31 contains the rules for determining whether putative independent contractors are in fact employees subject to state employment laws.
Are there state-specific rules regarding employee/contractor misclassification?
By statute, Connecticut follows the “ABC” test for independent contractor/employee classification in the context of unemployment compensation (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-222(a)(1)(B)). The ABC test focuses on:
- the degree of control exercised by the principal over the means and manner of work;
- whether the work is performed in the principal’s usual course of business or at the principal’s facilities; and
- whether the putative contractor is independently established in the trade or business he or she performs for the principal.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has suggested that the same test applies to classification questions in other contexts, but the statutes are silent in this regard. Case law confirming the application of the ABC test in other contexts is sparse. Case law is also underdeveloped with regard to whether additional alternative bases for finding that a worker is an employee under the unemployment compensation scheme apply to other bodies of employment law. State administrative agencies generally follow the ABC test.
Must an employment contract be in writing?
No—unless the contract is for a defined term of employment that will necessarily exceed one year. Contracts that are for an indefinite duration and permit termination only with cause do not fall under the statute of frauds and thus need not be in writing.
Are any terms implied into employment contracts?
The implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing contained in contracts generally applies to employment contracts.
Are mandatory arbitration agreements enforceable?
Yes, subject to general principles of clarity and conscionability required in arbitration provisions.
How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?
General principles of contract formation and interpretation also apply in employment contracts. For instance, an employer must generally offer an employee new considerations when a restrictive covenant is entered into after initial hiring, because the covenant will change the obligations of the parties as agreed at the start of the employment relationship.
What are the requirements relating to advertising open positions?
Connecticut employers must include an equal employment opportunity statement in all employment ads. Under Connecticut law, employers are explicitly prohibited from advertising employment opportunities:
“in such a manner as to restrict such employment so as to discriminate against individuals because of their race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness” (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(a)(6)).
What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries?
(a) Criminal records and arrests
Under Connecticut law, a job applicant need not disclose the existence of any:
- arrest, criminal charge, or conviction whose records have been erased;
- criminal records subject to erasure; or
- criminal records that have been erased.
All employment application forms that include questions concerning the criminal history of an applicant must contain a notice in clear and conspicuous language that the applicant need not disclose the foregoing information. Examples of criminal records subject to erasure include records pertaining to:
- a finding of delinquency or that a child is a member of a family with service needs;
- an adjudication as a youth offender;
- a dismissed criminal charge;
- a criminal charge for which the individual was found not guilty; or
- a conviction for which the individual received an absolute pardon.
Employers should also be aware of and follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance regarding background checks.
(b) Medical history
Connecticut has no specific statute which addresses requests for medical history during the hiring process. Employers must comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and should not discriminate against job applicants on the basis of any protected status recognized by state or federal law.
(c) Drug screening
Connecticut has an extensive drug testing statutory scheme which permits pre-employment drug screenings, but forbids random post-employment drug tests with a few narrow exceptions (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51t et seq.). Violation of the statute can result in severe penalties. Under the statute, employers cannot require a prospective employee to submit to a urinalysis drug test unless:
- the prospective employee is informed in writing at the time of application of the employer’s intent to conduct the drug test;
- the test is conducted in accordance with the requirements of law; and
- the prospective employee is given a copy of any positive urinalysis drug test result.
The results of any drug test are confidential and should be disclosed only to necessary employees of the employer.
After an applicant is hired and is an employee, employers cannot perform random drug testing, unless the employee holds a position designated as safety sensitive by the labor commissioner. An employer may require an employee to submit to a drug test if the it has reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs at work. Employees who leave their employment and are rehired within one year are to be treated as current employees under the statute, not prospective employees.
(d) Credit checks
In addition to complying with the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, Connecticut employers must comply with Sections 31-51tt of the Connecticut General Statutes. This statute prohibits employers from requiring that employees and prospective employees consent to requests for credit reports that contain their credit scores, credit account balances, payment histories, savings or checking account balances, or account numbers as a condition of employment. The statute provides a number of exceptions, including for individuals:
- in managerial positions who set the direction or control of the business;
- who have fiduciary responsibilities to the employer;
- who have access to personal or financial information which is not customarily provided; and
- who have access to confidential proprietary business information.
(e) Immigration status
(f) Social media
Connecticut has no specific statute which addresses the appropriate use of social media during the hiring process. Common law invasion of privacy principles presumably apply.
During the hiring process, Connecticut employers are prohibited from making inquiries based on an individual’s membership in a protected class and cannot request or require information relating to a prospective employee’s child-bearing age or plans, pregnancy, the function of the individual’s reproductive system, use of birth control methods, or familial responsibilities, unless such information is directly related to a bona fide occupational qualification or need. Employers are also prohibited from requesting or requiring genetic information from a person seeking employment.
Connecticut law also prohibits the use of polygraphs during the hiring process, with limited exceptions.
Wage and hour
What are the main sources of wage and hour laws in your state?
State statutes and regulations govern wage and hour in Connecticut.
What is the minimum hourly wage?
The minimum wage in Connecticut is currently $9.15 per hour. On January 1 2016 it will increase to $9.60 per hour. On January 1 2017 it will increase to $10.10 per hour.
What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?
An employee who leaves his or her employment voluntarily must be paid his or her final wages in full no later than the next regularly scheduled payday. When an employer discharges an employee, the employee must be paid in full no later than the next business day. Employers may not take deductions from wages (regularly or on termination of employment), unless:
- the deductions are specifically authorized by federal or state law;
- the employee has authorized the deductions in writing on a form approved by the labor commissioner; or
- the employee has authorized the deductions in writing for healthcare.
Hours and overtime
What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?
Under Connecticut law, most employees who work at least seven and a half hours are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal period at some point after the first two hours of their shift and before the last two hours of their shift.
What are the maximum hour rules?
Unless exempt, employees must be paid overtime at one and a half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 in any working week. Overtime exemptions under Connecticut law are not identical to exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
How should overtime be calculated?
The calculation of overtime under Connecticut law is similar to that under federal law. The regular rate includes all remuneration paid to the employee, except:
- discretionary gifts and bonuses;
- expense reimbursements;
- retirement and insurance premium contributions by the employer; and
- premium rates paid for holidays (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-76b).
What exemptions are there from overtime?
Connecticut recognizes the following classes of employees as exempt from overtime:
- drivers and helpers regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission or the federal Department of Transportation;
- radio and television announcers, news editors, and chief engineers;
- bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees, as defined in the Connecticut Department of Labor regulations;
- outside salespersons;
- certain inside salespersons;
- certain taxi drivers;
- household delivery salespersons delivering bakery and dairy products to consumers;
- automobile salespersons; and
- agricultural employees (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-76i).
What payroll and payment records must be maintained?
Connecticut imposes no payroll or payment recordkeeping requirements beyond those required under federal law. However, Connecticut has a statute relating to personnel files (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-128a et seq.), which regulates the disclosure of personnel file materials to employees and former employees and requires that employees be notified of their right to place statements in their files responding to negative comments by the employer.
Discrimination, harassment and family leave
What is the state law in relation to:
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her age.
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her race.
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her “present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness.” The Connecticut Supreme Court recently determined that the prohibition against disability discrimination also protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of perceived disabilities.
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of the individual’s sex or gender identity or expression.
(e) Sexual orientation?
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her sexual orientation.
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of his or her religious creed.
Under Connecticut law, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual on the basis of genetic information. It is also unlawful to discriminate against a female employee on the basis of pregnancy, or to refuse to grant a pregnant employee a reasonable unpaid leave of absence due to disability relating to pregnancy.
Other protected classes under Connecticut employment law include:
- national origin;
- marital status;
- opposition to discriminatory employment practices, including testimony in support of an individual who has brought a complaint;
- pregnancy, including a failure to provide accommodations;
- filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits;
- whistleblowing (i.e., reporting a suspected violation of any state or federal law or regulation or any municipal ordinance or regulation to a public body; or reporting unethical practices, mismanagement, or abuse of authority by a municipal employer);
- reporting suspected child abuse or neglect;
- participating in an investigation, hearing, inquiry, or court action at the request of a public body;
- breastfeeding in the workplace; and
- prior criminal convictions (for purposes of employment with a state agency).
What is the state law in relation to harassment?
Harassment based on a state-protected classification is unlawful. In addition, Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act specifically prohibits harassment based on sex or gender identity or expression. Larger employers must train supervisors on sexual harassment policies.
Family and medical leave
What is the state law in relation to family and medical leave?
Connecticut has a state Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51kk et seq.). There are differences between Connecticut’s FMLA and the federal FMLA—for example, under the state act:
- only employees of businesses employing 75 or more employees are covered;
- municipal and state employees are not covered;
- covered employees need to work only 1,000 hours in the year preceding the leave; and
- eligible employees are entitled to a total of 16 working weeks of leave during any 24-month period.
Employers cannot discriminate against an employee for requesting or exercising any right to family or medical leave.
Privacy in the workplace
Privacy and monitoring
What are employees’ rights with regard to privacy and monitoring?
Employees have the right to advance written notice of any workplace monitoring; the notice must indicate the type of monitoring the employer uses (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-48d). However, employees have no right to notice if:
- the employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the employee is engaged in conduct which:
- violates the law;
- violates the legal rights of the employer or the employer's employees; or
- creates a hostile workplace environment; and
- electronic monitoring may produce evidence of misconduct.
Employees may not be subject to electronic monitoring in workplace areas designed for the health or personal comfort of employees or for safeguarding possessions (e.g., restrooms, locker rooms, or lounges) (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-48b).
Prospective and current employees (other than prospective state and municipal law enforcement and corrections officers) cannot be required to submit to a polygraph examination as a condition of obtaining employment or continuing employment (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51g).
Employees cannot be required to submit to random drug testing in the absence of reasonable suspicion, unless:
- the test is authorized under federal law;
- the employee serves in an occupation which has been designated as safety sensitive or high risk by the labor commissioner;
- the employee operates a school bus or a student transportation vehicle; or
- the test is conducted as part of an employee-assistance program sponsored or authorized by the employer in which the employee voluntarily participates (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51x).
Are there state rules protecting social media passwords in the employment context and/or on employer monitoring of employee social media accounts?
No statutes or regulations protect social media passwords in the employment context or govern employer monitoring of employee social media accounts.
Bring your own device
What is the latest position in relation to bring your own device?
Connecticut law is silent on the issue of bring your own device. It is not an uncommon practice.
To what extent can employers regulate off-duty conduct?
Employers may not require employees or prospective employees to refrain from smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of employment, or otherwise discriminate against an individual for smoking or using tobacco products outside the course of employment as a condition of employment (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40s). Non-profit organizations or corporations whose primary purpose is to discourage tobacco use by the public are exempt from this law. The law does not affect municipal hiring practices involving firefighters and police officers.
Are there state rules protecting gun rights in the employment context?
No state statutes or regulations specifically govern guns in the workplace.
Trade secrets and restrictive covenants
Who owns IP rights created by employees during the course of their employment?
IP rights ownership is generally determined by agreement between the employer and employee. In the absence of an agreement, if an employee is hired to invent, the employer owns the intellectual property. Otherwise, the employee owns it.
What types of restrictive covenants are recognized and enforceable?
Depending on the circumstances, any type of restrictive covenant can be recognized and deemed enforceable (e.g., a non-compete (the restraint being geographical, temporal, or customer based) or a non-solicitation of customers clause). If the covenant protects legitimate employer interests (e.g., customer relationships or confidential business information) and the employee is in a position, by virtue of his or her employment, to impair those interests after his or her employment ends, the covenant will be enforceable, as long as the specific restraints afford no more than reasonable protection to the employer’s interests. No Connecticut statutes restrict or otherwise regulate non-compete agreements. If a restraint is unreasonable, Connecticut will not generally apply a “blue pencil” and reduce the restraint to something that is reasonable.
Are there any special rules on non-competes for particular classes of employee?
Connecticut’s Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit non-competes between a law firm and its lawyers (whether they are employees, partners, shareholders, or members). Section 31-50a of the Connecticut General Statutes limits non-compete agreements for security guards and Section 31-50b limits non-competes for broadcast industry employees. Otherwise, no special rules for particular classes of employees exist.
Right to work
Is the state a “right to work” state?
Unions and layoffs
Is the state (or a particular area) known to be heavily unionized?
Although many manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past 20 years, Connecticut remains one of the more heavily unionized states. There is an active National Labor Relations Board sub-regional office in Hartford—Sub-region 34.
What rules apply to layoffs? Are there particular rules for plant closures/mass layoffs?
No state statute requires advance notice for layoffs or plant closures, so only the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act applies. In the event that a covered establishment (i.e., an establishment with 100 or more employees in the preceding 12-month period) closes or relocates out of state, the employer must pay in full for the continuation of existing group health insurance policies for 120 days or until the employees become eligible for other group coverage—whichever comes first.
Discipline and termination
Are there state-specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?
No—unless the employer has unions in its workforce and a collective bargaining agreement in place, employers are free to discipline employees for misconduct as they see fit.
At-will or notice
At-will status and/or notice period?
Connecticut has no required period of notice before disciplining or discharging at-will employees.
What restrictions apply to the above?
Employers should be aware of Connecticut’s Personnel File Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-128a et seq.), which, among other things, requires employers to allow employees to inspect their personnel files on request. The statute also allows an employee to submit a written statement explaining why he or she disagrees with anything contained in the personnel file (including discipline); the employee’s statement must be maintained in the file (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-128e).
Are there state-specific rules on when final paychecks are due after termination?
If an employee voluntarily leaves or is laid off, he or she must be paid by the next regularly scheduled payday (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71c). If an employee is terminated, he or she must be paid by the following business day.