Earlier this month, important parts of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave law went into effect. (My colleague Amelia Holstrom recently discussed these issues with Springfield Channel 22 News, which you can watch here: Paycheck contributions to family, medical leave program begin Tuesday.) While Massachusetts employers begin collecting tax contributions and prepare for the implementation of PFML, Connecticut employers need to be aware that paid family and medical leave is coming to their state as well. Connecticut’s “Time’s Up” law also went into effect on October 1, 2019. The “Time’s Up” law overhauls the state sexual harassment statute and mandates new anti-harassment training for CT employers.
Next month, on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, from 12 to 1 p.m., Skoler Abbott attorneys John Gannon and Andrew Adams will present a complimentary, informative webinar to discuss your obligations under these new Connecticut laws. You can register for the webinar here:
In the meantime, here’s a preview of what we will be talking about during the webinar:
Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave
This summer, following a growing trend, Governor Ned Lamont signed Public Act No. 19-25, establishing a paid family and medical leave (PFML) insurance program in Connecticut. Paid family and medical leave laws entitle employees to a specified amount of paid time off from work to deal with a health issue or care for a new baby or family member with a medical condition. This differs substantially from the federal Family Medical Leave Act and many other state leave laws in that the time off is paid rather than unpaid, and funded by the new Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund.
Private sector employers with one or more employees and some state and local government employers are covered under the new law. This means smaller employers who are not currently covered by the federal or state Family Medical Leave Act will be covered by the new PFML law. Unionized public workers will have to utilize the collective bargaining process to gain coverage. Individuals who are self-employed and sole proprietors will also have the ability to opt-in to the program if they so choose.
Contributions under the program will begin on January 1, 2021, with leave benefits going into effect the following year. The most common question for employers is simple and straight-forward: who is going to pay for it? The Connecticut program will be exclusively funded by a mandatory payroll tax on employees, at a rate to be decided by the newly established Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority. This means, for now at least, Connecticut businesses will not foot the bill for this program. Even so, employers will be responsible for withholding the employee tax and remitting the funds to the state. The law sets a maximum weekly benefit of sixty times the minimum wage or $780 per week for the first six months of the program, rising to $840 that July, and then $900 on June 1, 2023, following increases pursuant to Connecticut’s new minimum wage law.
The act makes some significant changes to the way that family and medical leave is handled in Connecticut. Beginning January 1, 2022, covered employees will be eligible for up to twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave, rising to fourteen weeks in the case of a serious pregnancy-related health condition. Leave may be taken intermittently or as part of a reduced leave schedule. Qualifying reasons for leave include:
- caring for a new child;
- caring for a family member with a serious health condition (related to the employee by blood or affinity);
- caring for an employee’s own serious health condition;
- qualifying exigencies arising out a family member’s active duty military service; and
- serving as a bone marrow or organ donor.
Now that the bill has been signed the roughly two and a half year process of implementation will begin, starting with the appointment of the initial board of directors and staffing of the authority. The official public roll-out begins in January of 2020 with a mandated public education campaign to inform employers and employees of the requirements and rights afforded under the new program. Our webinar will address what to do now to prepare for this new law, and how the new PFML law will intersect with other leave laws and company policies that require job-protected time off.
Connecticut’s “Time’s Up” Act
This summer Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont also signed what has been called the “Time’s Up” Act, which is effective as of October 1, 2019. The new law is aimed at strengthening employee protections against workplace harassment. The biggest change for employers is in the realm of employee training. Connecticut employers with three or more employees will now have to provide sexual harassment training to all existing employees—not just supervisory employees—by October 1, 2020. Employees hired on or after October 1, 2019, need to be trained within six months of their start date. Employers with fewer than three employees will have to provide this training only to supervisors.
Under the previous version of the law, only employers with 50 or more employees were required to provide sexual harassment training to their supervisory employees. The “Time’s Up” Act significantly expands the universe of employees who will need to be trained on sexual harassment. The new law also mandates changes related to employee policies and workplace posters, as well as harassment investigation practices. These topics and more will be discussed during our complimentary webinar next month. We hope you will join us.