Small businesses in Connecticut now face a new challenge. The State House and Senate has passed and Governor Lamont has signed new legislation altering Connecticut’s Family and Medical Leave Act (CFMLA).
This new legislation allows all employees working in Connecticut to request up to 12 weeks of paid leave for certain family- and health-related reasons, such as the birth of a child or to tend to a close relative’s serious health condition.
Leave can be taken for the employee’s parent, child, spouse, or parent-in-law
The original act required that Connecticut employers with 75 or more employees provide 16 weeks of protected unpaid leave in a 24-month period. To qualify, an employee had to work for their current employer for at least 12 months, though the 12 months did not need to be consecutive. Employees did need to have worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify, however.
Under the new law, the most generous of its kind in the nation, minimum wage employees will have up to 95 percent of their pay covered, capped at $900 per week. New York state recently-passed a paid leave policy that provides only a 55 percent wage replacement, increasing to 67 percent when the law is fully implemented.
Also, under the new law, all employers, even those with a single employee, will be required to provide a paid leave of absence to any employee requesting such a leave for family and health-related reasons. In a big change from the original legislation, employees will be eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer for at least three months immediately preceding their request for leave with no minimum requirement for hours worked.
Disputes over worker eligibility will be resolved by the Connecticut Department of Labor.
The good news for employers is that the program will be paid for by employees. Under the bill, every employee in the state of Connecticut will be asked to contribute 0.5 percent of their earnings to a state FMLA trust fund.
Annual costs for Connecticut workers will range from $156 for minimum-wage workers to a maximum of $664.50 for those with six-figure incomes.
A worker earning $600 a week will receive benefits equal to 95 percent of wages, or $570. This benefit was set in the belief that someone working close to minimum wage cannot afford to take leave without getting close to current wages.
Replacement wages at other weekly income levels will be at a lower percentage for higher earners: 80 percent for someone making $1,040; 70 percent for $1,280; 61 percent for $1,480; and 56 percent for $1,600. Total weekly compensation cannot exceed 60 times the minimum wage. With a $15 minimum wage expected to take effect in 2023, that yields a maximum weekly benefit of $3,600.
What if the program is determined to be underfunded? Should that occasion arise, the state is required to reduce benefits paid.
A 13-member quasi-public agency will oversee the program. Benefits will become payable on July 1, 2021.
Every Republican in both chambers of the legislature opposed the bill.
Does this new legislation represent a potential hardship for small companies?
Will the legislation make Connecticut a more attractive state for workers?
That remains to be seen.
If you’re an employer and have questions about labor and employment law, including family and medical leave, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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