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Labor & Employment Law Alert: NRLB and "New Sick Leave"

June 24, 2011

 Earlier this month we reported on Connecticut’s passage of the "Sick Leave" and "Gender Identity" bills, as well as U.S. Supreme Court and NLRB developments. Since then, there have been several other employment-related developments, including new bills passed by the legislature and another decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. This client alert provides a further update on employment-related developments.

New Sick Leave Law 

The details of the new law are in the article, "What Employers Need to Know About Connecticut’s New Sick Leave Law," which can be found here.

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Certification of 1.5 Million Member Plaintiff Class

In a highly anticipated decision involving the largest sex discrimination case in U.S. history, the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the certification of a class of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees and former employees. The Court held that the plaintiffs did not prove that they shared common questions of law and fact. This decision heightens the standard that courts must use to determine the appropriateness of a proposed class and is expected to make the bringing of class action cases more difficult.

Increased Fines for Violations of the Connecticut Personnel Files Act

The Personnel Files Act generally requires employers to give employees access to their personnel and medical files and prohibits employers from disclosing personnel information without employee consent. Public Act 11-12 increases the fines for employers who violate the Personnel Files Act to $500 for a first violation and $1,000 for subsequent violations related to the same employee. These penalties may be recovered in civil court by an action from the Attorney General upon a complaint from the Labor Commissioner.

CHRO Process Modified

The legislature passed a bill that significantly alters the CHRO process in an attempt to make it shorter and more efficient. While the changes are numerous, highlights include:  

    • More time for the CHRO to conduct a merit assessment review (MAR) if the respondent requests additional time to file an Answer,  
    • An automatic review of cases dismissed in the MAR process,
    • A mandatory mediation session within 60 days of a case being retained in the MAR process,
    • A requirement that the CHRO schedule a fact finding conference or dismiss the complaint within 90 days of a failed mandatory mediation session,
    • A change that allows complainants to request a release of jurisdiction 30 days earlier than the law previously allowed – i.e., after 180 days instead of 210 days.

Connecticut Employers Restricted from Requesting Credit Reports of Employees and Applicants

The legislature passed a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring employees or applicants to consent to requests for credit reports unless: (1) the employer is a financial institution, (2) the report is required by law, (3) the employer believes the employee has engaged in specific unlawful activity related to the employee’s employment or (4) the report is substantially related to the employee’s current or potential job or the employer has a bona fide, job-related business reason for requesting the report (and is disclosed in writing to the employee or applicant). The bill provides for a civil penalty of $300 for each violation and the penalties may be recovered in civil court by the Attorney General.

Connecticut Employers Subject to Unemployment Insurance Special Assessment

As a result of increased unemployment payouts that have exceeded revenue, the Connecticut Unemployment Trust Fund became insolvent in 2009. To cover this deficit and to pay interest on money borrowed from the U.S. Department of Labor, Connecticut employers (except for certain non-profit institutions) will be required to pay an annual special assessment in August 2011. In addition, in January 2012 employers’ FUTA tax rates will increase from 0.8% to 1.1%.

NLRB Proposes Rules to Decrease the Time Between Representation Petitions and Elections

On June 21, 2011, the NLRB proposed new rules that, among other things, would effectively decrease the period of time between the filing of a petition for representation and the subsequent election. The practical effect is that employers will have less time to mount a campaign in a union election. The NLRB has invited interested parties to submit comments to the proposed rules during the next six months.