Late Friday, the Connecticut House passed a paid family and medical leave bill, which Governor Ned Lamont said he will sign, to provide paid leave to eligible employees and significantly expand employee eligibility and covered reasons for leave.   The major practical effects of the bill, once signed, are:

  • Making 12 weeks of paid leave, funded by a 0.5%  employee payroll tax (effective in 2021), available to the vast majority of employees in Connecticut beginning in 2022; and
  • Expanding covered FMLA reasons to include caring for grandparents/children, siblings, and those who are equivalent to a family member.

The Governor previously said that he would veto the bill, which was passed by the Senate in late May, but changed his position following negotiations as to how the program would be administered.

Timing:

The most significant changes are not effective until 2021 or 2022:

  • January 1, 2021: employee payroll contributions begin
  • On or before January 1, 2022: Department of Labor will provide guidelines for the expanded FMLA
  • January 1, 2022: expansion of covered individuals and reasons for FMLA effective
  • January 1, 2022: actual compensation payable

Note: Employers can apply for approval of a private program, but it must provide equivalent benefits and meet a number of other specific requirements, including approval by a majority vote of the employer’s employees.

Paid Leave Entitlement:

  • Up to 12 weeks paid leave are available for state FMLA covered reasons and under the family violence leave law (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51ss). An additional two weeks will be available for a incapacitating serious health condition related to pregnancy.
  • Weekly paid leave compensation is capped at a maximum of up to 60 times the minimum wage. When payments begin, the minimum wage is set to be $13 per hour, so the maximum will be $780.
  • Employed individuals must have earned at least $2,325 in a “base period” to be eligible for paid leave benefits.  Individuals who are unemployed may apply for benefits if they meet the earnings requirement and were employed within the 12 weeks before they applied for benefits.
  • Individuals may receive compensation concurrent with “employer-provided employment benefits” (an undefined term) but the total cannot exceed the employee’s regular rate of compensation.
    • While it is not entirely clear, this provision, along with another allowing employers to require employees to use all but two weeks of paid time off, at least suggests that payments through the state program would begin after the employee’s paid time off is exhausted, but that, in any case, the total amount of leave would be limited to 12 (or 14) weeks.
  • Compensation is available for “non-consecutive hours of leave.”
    • This creates a paid intermittent leave entitlement.

Expansion of Connecticut FMLA Coverage:

  • Covers private employers with one employee (rather than the previous 75).
  • Will expand current coverage to care for a spouse, child, or parent to also cover care for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, and any other “individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships” (the DOL is to provide guidance on this issue).
  • Removes requirement that an employee must have worked for an employer for 12 months and for 1000 hours.  Instead, an employee simply needs to have worked for the employer for three months.
  • Total leave is reduced from 16 to 12 weeks in a 12-month (rather than 24-month) period (with two additional weeks available for incapacitation pregnancy-related condition).
    • This change will make it simpler to align Connecticut and federal FMLA calculations in most cases.

Notice requirements:

Effective July 1, 2022, employers must provide notice to employees at time of hire and annually of FMLA entitlement and terms of use, that retaliation is prohibited, and that employee has right to file a complaint with the Connecticut DOL for violations of the Connecticut FMLA.

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While the contributions and payments under the bill, once signed, will not occur for two or more years, Connecticut employers must be aware of these monumental upcoming changes in employee leave management.

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Photo of Francis P. Alvarez Francis P. Alvarez

Francis P. (Frank) Alvarez is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is the Leader of the Disability, Leave and Health Management Practice Group, which assists employers in meeting the legal and practical challenges posed by…

Francis P. (Frank) Alvarez is a Principal in the White Plains, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is the Leader of the Disability, Leave and Health Management Practice Group, which assists employers in meeting the legal and practical challenges posed by federal and state laws protecting injured and ill employees.

Counseling hundreds of employers each year, Mr. Alvarez spearheads the firm’s effort to provide imaginative and creative solutions to the complex array of workplace disability and health management issues faced by both large and small companies. In the Jackson Lewis tradition, Mr. Alvarez counsels clients with the goal of either avoiding litigation entirely or improving outcomes before administrative agencies, courts and juries.

Mr. Alvarez especially enjoys assisting clients conduct the “individualized assessment” required by a growing number of federal and state laws. These efforts include helping employers effectively communicate with employees and medical providers in an effort to evaluate potential risks to health and safety posed by employee injuries or illnesses. In an area of law in which there often are few bright lines, Mr. Alvarez attempts to develop practical and constructive solutions centered on the concept he calls “tc2” — taking care of employees and taking control of risks.

Recently, Mr. Alvarez has begun leading the Firm into another exciting and fast-developing area of workplace law called “health management.” Challenged by increases in health care and work injury costs, employers are searching for innovative ways to motivate employees to participate in wellness and health promotion programs. Mr. Alvarez leads a team of Jackson Lewis attorneys who advise employers on ways to implement these important programs while complying with emerging and largely undeveloped federal and state law protections.

Mr. Alvarez writes and speaks frequently on disability management issues, including legal developments under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He has delivered presentations at major speaking engagements, including SHRM’s national and legislative conferences. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Alvarez has represented employers as lead counsel in both trial and appellate courts and has successfully tried employment discrimination claims to verdict.