The Connecticut General Assembly has passed several significant changes to Connecticut law impacting various areas of employment, which the Governor is expected to sign.
1. Increase in Connecticut minimum wage
Connecticut’s minimum wage will increase according to the following schedule:
•$11.00 on October 1, 2019
•$12.00 on September 1, 2020
•$13.00 on August 1, 2021
•$14.00 on July 1, 2022
•$15.00 on June 1, 2023
In future years, starting in 2024, Connecticut’s minimum wage will automatically increase at a percentage corresponding to the federal employment cost index for wages and salaries for all civilian workers, which is a rate established by the U.S. Department of Labor.Employees who are not paid at least the minimum wage required under Connecticut law can bring a claim against their employer under the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act.
Employees who receive a lower tip credit hourly wage from their employer will not see an increase in their tip credit hourly rate as a result of this law, but the amount received in tips must provide the employees with at least enough money to equal the full minimum wage under Connecticut law, as it increases over time.If it does not, then employees can bring a claim against their employer under the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act.
2. New Requirements for Employers to Provide Sexual Harassment Training
By October 1, 2020, all employers – regardless of their size – must provide sexual harassment training to supervisors, and all employers with at least 3 employees must provide sexual harassment training to all of their employees.For new hires, or newly promoted supervisors, after October 1, 2020, the requirements must be satisfied within 6 months of hire or promotion.
The law also requires employers to send notice to employees via e-mail regarding sexual harassment policies within 3 months of an employee’s date of hire.
Under the bill, the State of Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) will be required to prepare materials that employers can use in order to deliver the mandatory trainings to their employees and supervisors.
However, if employers do not provide the mandatory training, or notice, required under the new law, it will be considered a discriminatory practice which can support a claim of discrimination against the employer before the CHRO or in court, and subject the employer to a monetary fine.
3. Other Changes to Connecticut’s Anti-Discrimination Law
The new legislation also expands the deadline for employees to file claims of discrimination with the CHRO from 180 days to 300 days, which aligns Connecticut law with existing federal law, for acts of discrimination which occur on or after October 1, 2019.
The new legislation also makes clear that Referees at the Office of Public Hearings can award damages suffered by an employee as a result of discrimination, including attorney’s fees and costs.
The new legislation also makes clear that an employee can recover punitive damages against an employer who engages in discrimination or retaliation in violation of Connecticut law.This provision reverses a recent Connecticut Supreme Court decision which held that punitive damages were not available under the status as previously written.
All of these changes will serve to strengthen the remedies available to employees whose rights have been violated in the workplace.