Connecticut has a host of new employment laws that take effect October 1, 2021. However, one new law will add a significant layer of complexity for employers, particularly in the hiring process.
Under Connecticut’s new law, employers are prohibited from failing or refusing to provide a job applicant with the “wage range” of the position for which the applicant is applying.
“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, the 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.
Employers will thus want to consider adding a reference to the wage range, at a minimum, in any offer letter that is provided to new hires. Some, however, will want to add the wage range to job descriptions that may get posted on job messaging boards. Indeed, the law does not define when an individual is considered an applicant making it difficult to know when information should be provided. Regardless of how employers want to comply with the law, it is vital that providing a “wage range” be built into the hiring process.
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. Thus again, on any change in position, the employer should notify employees of both their new salary and the wage range for the position.
The penalty for failing to comply can be severe. 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.
The law is also changing regarding Connecticut 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. We will discuss this further at our upcoming fall webinar series. Watch for information on that series shortly.