As is Connecticut’s tradition, several new laws took effect on October 1, 2021, including a number affecting the employment relationship.
House Bill 6515, CROWN Act: The Creating a Respectful & Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act amends the definition of “race” under the Connecticut Human Rights law, including the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA), to encompass ethnic traits associated with race, including hair texture and hairstyles, such as wigs, head wraps, braids, cornrows, locs, twists, bantu knots, afros, and afro puffs.
Public Act 21-69, An Act Deterring Age Discrimination in Employment Applications: Public Act 21-69 further amended the CFEPA, specifically adding Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60(b)(12), to make it a discriminatory employment practice for an employer or the employer’s agent to include questions on an initial employment application that would disclose an applicant’s age. The Act specifies that an employer is prohibited from asking or requiring disclosure of the employee’s: (1) age; (2) date of birth; and (3) dates that the applicant attended and/or graduated from any educational institution. There is an exception to this law if age is a bona fide job occupational qualification or need, or if the information is required to comply with any state or federal law.
Public Act 21-27, An Act Concerning Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Public Act 21-27 amends current state law to provide further protection to breastfeeding parents. The law specifies that in addition to the place for expressing milk being closely located to the employee’s worksite, it must also be (1) free from intrusion and shielded from the public while being used, (2) include an electrical outlet; and (3) include or be close to a refrigerator unless meeting these requirements would be an undue hardship.
Public Act 21-30, An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Salary Range for Vacant Positions: Public Act 21-30 amends Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40z, which prohibits employers from penalizing employees for discussing wage information. The amended law now requires employers to provide new employees with the “wage range” for any vacant position. The “wage range” includes any range of wages that may be relied on in setting wages for the position, including pay scale, predetermined wage range for the position, actual wage range for employees holding comparable positions, or the budgeted amount. For new employees, this must be disclosed no later than at the time an offer of employment is made or upon request, whichever is earlier. For current employees, it must be disclosed if the employee changes position or when an employee requests it.
Public Act 21-2, § 94, Leave to Vote: Brand new is Connecticut’s requirement that employees be permitted two hours of unpaid leave to vote in any state election. An employee must request the time off at least two workdays in advance.
Public Act 21-25, An Act Concerning Access to Certain Public Employees by the Exclusive Bargaining Representatives of a Public Employer Bargaining Unit: This Act addresses Janus v. AFSCME, decided in 2018 by the United States Supreme Court. Janus held that public employees cannot be required to join a union as a condition of employment. Although there are no reports of union membership waning, Public Act 21-25 requires public employers (including the state, municipal employers, and local and regional boards of education) to provide certain information to unions and to provide unions with access to employees. In pertinent part, it requires as follows:
- Employee Information. Within 10 days of an employee being hired, public employers must provide the employee’s union with the newly hired employee’s name, job title, department, work location, work phone number, and home address in editable digital format. Each quarter, public employers must provide the union with all its bargaining unit members’ names, job titles, worksite locations, work telephone numbers, dates of hire, work email addresses, and home addresses. In addition, if authorized by the employee in writing, the employer must also provide employees’ home telephone numbers, personal cell numbers, and personal email addresses.
- Access to New Employee Orientation. Unions must be notified in writing at least 10 days in advance of when new hire orientation will be conducted and must be given access to the orientation. The Act requires the parties to enter into an agreement as to the structure, time, and manner of the union’s access. If an agreement cannot be reached, interest arbitration will be imposed.
- Access to Facilities/Systems/Employees. Unions must be permitted access to public employees they represent during the workday. This includes the right to hold meetings on the employer’s premises before and after the workday, and during any breaks. Unions now may also use an employer’s email system to communicate with the bargaining unit.