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Ringing in 2022 with a Look Back at New Employment Laws in Connecticut

December 21, 2021

As we close out 2021 and look forward to 2022, we thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the important changes made to Connecticut employment laws during 2021.  Let’s face it, there was a lot going on last year and one could easily miss anyone of these new laws.  If you have questions or need assistance implementing policies in support of any of these new regulations, we are here to help.

Covered Use of Recreational Marijuana

In 2021, Connecticut became the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana. The provisions of this new law as they relate to employment will go into effect beginning July 1, 2022.

Notwithstanding the new law, employers are still permitted to prohibit an employee from working while under the influence of marijuana.  Employers can also prohibit an employee from possessing and/or using marijuana while working for the employer or while on employer’s premises.

However, staring July 1, 2022, unless the employer has a written policy to the contrary, all employers covered by this law will no longer be permitted to prohibit the off-hours use of marijuana by its employees or take any adverse action against such employees for testing positive for marijuana. This prohibition also covers job applicants.

That said, employers will still be permitted to perform workplace drug testing; provided that, it is done in accordance with Connecticut law.

There are a lot of nuances to this new law, and we recommend our readers seek competent legal counsel before implementing or modifying any new or existing testing policies.

Disclosure of Salary Range

Effective October 1, 2021, Connecticut began to require employers to share wage range information with applicants and employees.  The law requires:

  • Employers to give each applicant the wage range for the position he/she is applying for upon the earlier of (i) the time the applicant is made an offer of compensation and (ii) the applicant’s initial request; and
  • Employers to give an employee the wage range for the employee’s position upon the following events: (i) the time of hiring, (ii) a change in position, and (iii) when employee first requests to receive the wage range.

New Standard for Gender Based Wage Discrimination

Effective October 1, 2021, Connecticut expanded the standard used for determining whether an employer is discriminating in wages paid based on gender.

The new law prohibits employers from gender-based pay discrimination for workers doing “comparable work.”  Previously, an employee who alleged pay discrimination based on his or her gender needed to show she/he was paid less than another employee of the opposite gender for “equal” work that required “equal” skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. 

The new law significantly expands the prior standard to include a measurement of a comparable level of “skill, effort, and responsibility” under “similar work conditions.”  The broader definition makes it easier for employees to prevail.

The new law permits employers to refute such a claim by showing the differential in pay is based on a bona fide factor other than sex, such as a seniority or merit-based system; a system that measures earnings by output; or some other system based on experience, training skills, work location, work credentials, etc.

Enhanced Breastfeeding/Lactation Room Requirements

Effective October 1, 2021, Connecticut established certain criteria for employer-provided areas used by employees to express breast milk. The prior law only required employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a location near the employee’s work area, other than a toilet stall, where an employee could express her milk in private during a meal or break period.

The new law further requires that, as long as there is no undue hardship, this area must:

(1) be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while the employee expresses milk;

(2) include or be near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk; and

(3) have access to an electrical outlet.

By law, an employer’s “reasonable efforts” to provide such an area are those that would not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business operation. An “undue hardship” is any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as the business’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation.

Increase in Minimum Wage

Effective August 1, 2021, Connecticut’s minimum wage increased from $12 per hour to $13 per hour.

Keep in mind the Connecticut minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour on July 1, 2022, and to $15 per hour on June 1, 2023.

Employment Application Age Inquiries

Effective October 1, 2021, Connecticut employers are not permitted to require (or even request) a job applicant to disclose their dates of attendance at or graduation from an educational institution.  It also reiterates that inquiries into age are not permitted unless age is a bona fide occupational qualification, such as when dealing with minors, or the information being requested is necessary to comply with another state or federal law.

CROWN Act: Discrimination Based on Natural Hair

Effective March 4, 2021, Connecticut passed its version of the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair).  The CROWN Act prohibits discrimination based on traits historically associated with race including, but not limited to, hair texture, and protective hairstyles.

Hairstyles protected under the CROWN Act include wigs, headwraps and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros, and afro puffs.

Notice of Education Assistance Programs

Employers in Connecticut with more than 100 employees do not need to offer an education assistance program to their workers; however, if they do, they must notify their Connecticut based employees of such a program.  The notice must include a summary of the benefits of the plan and how employees are to apply.

Unpaid Voting Leave

Starting 2021, employers must permit their employees up to two hours of unpaid time off to vote.  To receive this benefit, employees must request the time off no less than two working days in advance.

Workers’ Compensation

Earlier this year, Connecticut expanded worker protections for certain individuals who filed claims under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  This expansion includes prohibitions against disciplining, deliberately misinforming, or deliberately dissuading an employee from submitting a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and/or a claim for benefits under the Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund.

Rehiring Laid Off Workers – COVID-19

In an effort to protect workers’ jobs, Connecticut passed legislation requiring certain Connecticut employers to rehire former employees who were laid off during the pandemic before hiring new employees.  The law covers hotels, lodging houses, food service contractors, and building service companies, with 15 or more employees.

The law requires recall based primarily on employee seniority, with some nuances.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Effective January 1. 2022, eligible Connecticut employees will be able to receive paid family and medical leave benefits through the Paid Family Leave Insurance Authority.  As you may recall, Connecticut employees have been making contributions equal to one half of one percent (0.5%) of wages since the beginning of 2021 to fund this new benefit.    

The Act provides partial pay for up to 12 weeks within a 12-month period with two additional weeks of benefits available if the underlying issue is incapacitation during pregnancy. Employees are currently able to submit applications for paid leave benefits which are scheduled to start on or after January 1, 2022.

Closing Thoughts

We hope all our Connecticut employers had a happy and safe 2021 and are looking forward to an even better 2022.  As you can see from the brief summary above, the law rarely remains static, even in a pandemic.  Many of the new laws outlined above are simple and self-explanatory; however, some are much more detailed, and we were not able to address them completely in this lookback.  If you would like to discuss any of these new laws and how they may impact your business, feel free to give us a call or otherwise seek competent legal counsel as this article is only a brief overview.  Happy New Year!

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.