Over the last week, Governor Lamont signed two bills, House Bill 6380 (Public Act 21-30) and House Bill 5158 (Public Act 21-27), that will impact public and private employers beginning October 1, 2021 in significant (and yet entirely different) ways.
House Bill 6380 adds another layer of complexity for employers engaged in hiring and also amends the State’s current equal pay laws. This new law prohibits employers from failing or refusing to provide a job applicant with the “wage range” of the position for which the applicant is applying. Under this law, “wage range” is defined as “the range of wages an employer anticipates relying on when setting wages for a position, and may include reference to any applicable pay scale, previously determined range of wages for the position, actual range of wages for those employees currently holding comparable positions or the employer’s budgeted amount for the position.”
Accordingly, employers must provide the wage range before or when offering the applicant the job, or when the applicant requests it during the application process — whichever is earlier. Notably, this law does not just apply to applicants; rather, the new law also prohibits employers from failing or refusing to provide their employees with their wage ranges, when hired, when their position changes, or upon the employee’s first request for a wage range. Job applicants and employees may file suit for violations up to two years after they occur. Employers may be liable for compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees.
House Bill 6380 also amends the State’s equal pay laws. Currently, the law provides that an employee alleging pay discrimination must prove that the employer pays employees of one sex a lower wage than employees of the opposite sex for equal work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. Beginning October 1, employees will now be required to prove the employer pays employees of one sex a lower wage for comparable work when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.
In an apparent compromise to the broadening of the State’s law, employers will still be able to defend against such a claim by showing that their pay system is differential based upon a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience. This new law specifies that such other bona fide factors may also now include credentials, skill and geographic location. These claims must still be brought to the labor commissioner and it is only when the complaint is not investigated that the employee may bring an action in court.
Employers should use this law as an opportunity to revisit their pay practices and ensure that job postings comply with this new law.
House Bill 5158 adds three new parameters for the existing requirement that an employer provide a lactation room or other location in the workplace for a mother to express her milk. Previously, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40w only required that such room or location be private, in close proximity to the work area, and not a toilet stall. Beginning October 1 and absent undue hardship, such room or location must also:
- be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while an employee expresses breast milk;
- include or be situated near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk; and
- include access to an electrical outlet.
Pursuant to this new law, an employer is not required to provide these new parameters if there is an undue hardship. Typically, the undue hardship defense is a high bar to meet and depends on the difficulty and expense of providing such parameter in relation to factors such as the size of the employer’s business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation. Notably, under the new law, the undue hardship defense does not apply to any of the three original parameters. So, at the very minimum, all employer-provided lactation rooms or locations will be private, in close proximity to the work area, and not a toilet stall.
Although, it is too early to tell what the impact of these new laws will actually be, employers need to be ready to implement these changes in their policies and procedures over the next couple of months.