NEW DEVELOPMENTS FOR CONNECTICUT’S FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

A new bill was signed into law just this week establishing a paid family and medical leave program for eligible employees in Connecticut [Public Act No. 19-25]. While most of the changes set forth in the Act do not become effective until 2021 or 2022, the Act sets forth a rather expansive and comprehensive scheme for reimbursement for family and medical leave to those employees eligible under the Act.

The program would be funded by employee payroll withholdings that would commence on January 1, 2021, which would constitute a percentage of the employees’ subject earnings that shall not exceed the Social Security contribution and benefit base, provided the percentage shall not exceed 0.5%. Covered employees could begin receiving compensation for up to twelve (12) weeks of leave beginning on January 1, 2022, although two (2) additional weeks could be provided for a serious health condition resulting in incapacitation that occurs during a pregnancy. The Act requires a shorter period of time for employment preceding the request for leave, namely, three (3) months, within which to become eligible, provided they meet the earnings requirement. A covered employee means an individual who has earned not less than $2,325 in subject earnings during the employee’s highest earning quarter within the base period.

Family members within the Act are defined to mean a spouse, sibling, son or daughter, grandparent, grandchild or parent, or an individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships, and the Act further defines the terms “spouse”, “sibling,” “son or daughter”, “grandchild,” “grandparent” or “parent,” although the phrase “individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships” does not seem to be clearly defined. It will be interesting to see how this phrase gets applied.

Under the Act, leave may be taken for the following: the birth of a son or daughter of the employee; the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care; to care for a family member of the employee if such family member has a serious health condition; because of a serious health condition of the employee; to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor; or because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee is on active duty, or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty.

Some other noteworthy points under the Act are that it now covers private employers that have one employee, as opposed to the previous requirement of seventy-five (75) employees; compensation can be provided for nonconsecutive hours of leave; and the weekly benefit amount would be 95 percent of 40 times the minimum wage and 60 percent on earnings above the minimum wage, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $780 based on a $13 minimum wage, $840 on a $14 minimum wage and $900 on a $15 minimum wage. The Act also imposes certain obligations on employers, commencing on July 1, 2022, namely, to provide written notice to its employees, at the time of hiring and annually thereafter, of the entitlement to family and medical leave; of the opportunity to file a claim for compensation under the program; that retaliation by the employer against the employee is prohibited and that the employee has a right to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for any violations of the Act.

There were some concerns raised along the way about the administrative aspects of the bill, as well as concerns over whether funding would be sufficient to cover the costs of the administration of the program. Only time will tell as to whether this program will be successful.

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