On Tuesday, Governor Malloy signed into law a bill amending Connecticut’s Act Concerning Pay Equity so that, with limited exceptions, Connecticut employers will no longer be allowed to inquire about an applicant’s wage and salary history. Following the trend set by states that have enacted pay equity measures, including Massachusetts, Connecticut’s pay equity law imposes a number of restrictions on employers.

Beginning January 1, 2019, Connecticut employers with one or more employees (practically speaking, all Connecticut employers) will be prohibited from inquiring, either directly or through a third party, about a prospective employee’s wage and salary history. The prospective employee may voluntarily disclose its wage or salary history, however.
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On Monday, in a 5-4 majority decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-285, the U.S. Supreme Court found class action waivers in arbitration agreements to be valid and enforceable, settling a long-standing split among federal courts of appeals.

By way of background, the Supreme Court years ago allowed employers to use arbitration clauses as a way to resolve employment disputes outside of court by requiring employees to agree to arbitration as a condition of employment. In recent years, employers have included class action waivers in such arbitration agreements.  These waivers prevent employees from joining a class or collective action lawsuit/arbitration against their employer. 
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Weeks before the uproar over revelations that U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty paid her chief of staff a $5,000 severance package and signed a non-disclosure agreement concerning sexual harassment allegations made against him, the Connecticut state Senate raised Senate Bill 503, An Act Requiring Approval of State Agency Settlement and Nondisclosure Agreements.”  The bill, if approved by the General Assembly – would require legislative approval of certain payments made to state employees pursuant to a nondisclosure or separation agreement.
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A new Massachusetts law significantly enhances existing anti-discrimination protections for pregnant employees. The “Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” effective April 1, 2018, prevents discrimination against, and expressly protects, employees who are pregnant or are experiencing pre- and post-birth pregnancy-related medical needs, including, but not limited to, lactation, expressing breast milk, and recovering from childbirth.
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The Massachusetts Equal Pay Act (“MEPA”), which amends the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law, goes into effect July 1, 2018, and applies to all employers regardless of their size, including the state and its municipalities.   Massachusetts was the first state in the country to pass an equal pay law and, in fact, preceded the federal Equal Pay Act by 18 years. The 2018 amendments make MEPA one of the strongest pay equity laws in the country, intended to close the reported 84.3.% pay gap for working women in Massachusetts.   In advance of this upcoming deadline, Attorney General Maura Healey (“AG”) issued MEPA Guidance on March 1, 2018.
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In a significant decision reflecting the evolution of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which covers Connecticut, New York and Vermont, has ruled in Zarda v. Altitude Express, No. 15-3775, en banc, (2d Cir. 2018) that Title VII protects individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, even though Title VII itself does not expressly state that it applies to sexual orientation discrimination. The case provides fascinating insight into how courts’ interpretations of statutes may change over time in light of changing social mores and developing doctrine.  The issue is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court because although the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) agrees that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination, the Eleventh Circuit (Alabama, Florida and Georgia) has held that it does not.
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Last week, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a letter to leaders in Congress, urging the passage of legislation that would prohibit mandatory arbitration of workplace sexual harassment claims. In the letter, 56 attorneys general of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands called on Congress to allow victims of workplace sexual harassment claims to have their days in court and be afforded the “procedural and substantive due process” that comes with proceeding with a lawsuit.  
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It is critical that organizations have a plan of action in place to manage operations during natural disasters in order to keep business going and disruptions to a minimum. In addition to preparing and implementing a disaster plan, it is important for business owners and human resource professionals to be aware of the employment laws that may be implicated as a result of these disasters. We will review possible steps in managing disasters in the workplace and discuss the employment law and wage and hour issues that arise when employees are prevented from working as a result of natural disaster.
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On March 7, 2011, Peter Joyce, Jr. (“Joyce”) filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), claiming that Respondent CSX Transportation (“CSX”): (1) denied him a reasonable accommodation in the use of a computer device that he had difficulty mastering because he suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and other cognitive limitations; and (2) he was disciplined and removed from service for an infraction which he claims was related to his disability.  Joyce asserted that the unwarranted discipline caused him great anxiety and distress resulting in his being placed on an occupational disability retirement.  More than five years later, the MCAD held hearings on the claim in September 2016.  Eight months later, Hearing Officer Eugenia Guastaferri issued her decision in which she awarded Joyce $224,070.39 in lost pay and $100,000 in emotional distress damages, both accruing twelve (12%) percent interest from May 7, 2011 until payment.

This case illustrates the difficulties inherent in evaluating the performance of long-term employees with respect to rapidly-changing job requirements due to technological advances – particularly when evaluating reasonable accommodations for claimed disabilities.


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