Connecticut: What Employers Should Know About the New Clean Slate Law (and Other New or Changed Laws)

By Meaghan E. Murphy - Skoler Abbott

February 2, 2023

On January 1, 2023, Connecticut’s “Clean Slate” law went into effect. The Clean Slate law seeks to remove barriers to employment for eligible individuals convicted of certain low-level crimes, who have completed their sentences and have had no further involvement with the criminal justice system since their release. To that end, the law sets forth a process for erasure of conviction records for most misdemeanor convictions and some felony convictions after a specified period.

In general, individuals with misdemeanor convictions will be eligible for record erasure after seven years and individuals with low-level felony convictions will be eligible after ten. According to a recent press release, there will be full or partial erasure in about 44,000 cases involving convictions for cannabis possession. Eligible convictions for other crimes, including most misdemeanors and eligible low-level felonies, will have to wait until the later in 2023 as a result of implementation delays.

Under the Clean Slate law, applicants with all of their convictions erased will be allowed to say that they do not have a criminal record, and further, that they have not been arrested. In addition, all employers are prohibited from asking employees or applicants to disclose any “erased criminal history record information.” That may require some employers to change their employment applications to remove questions about an applicant’s criminal history. If an employer wants to keep such questions on their applications, the applications must include a lengthy notice, in clear and conspicuous language, stating (among other things) that the applicant is not required to disclose the existence of any erased criminal history record information.

The Clean Slate law also makes it a separate discriminatory practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of that employee’s erased criminal history record information.” Alleged violations of the Clean Slate law can be brought to the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or to the Connecticut Superior Court directly.

Connecticut employers should also be aware of other new or changed state labor and employment laws now in effect, including the following:

• Minimum Wage Increases: On July 1, 2023, the state minimum wage per hour will increase from the current $14/hour to $15/hour. Effective January 1, 2024, and each year thereafter, the state minimum wage is tied to the employment cost index (ECI) for wages and salaries for all civilian workers, which is defined by the United States Department of Labor, as of June 30th of the preceding year.

• Workplace Smoking Rules: Part of the state’s legal cannabis bill included new restrictions on smoking in the workplace. The new law requires all employers to ban smoking and e-cigarette use – both cannabis and tobacco – in any area of the workplace, as well as outside within 25 feet of a doorway, window or air intake vent. Previously, employers with five or more employees could designate a smoking room for smoking tobacco. Gone are the days of employees stepping just outside for a smoke break.

• Workplace Lactation Room Requirements: Absent undue hardship, employers must provide a lactation room or location for a mother to express her milk that is: (i) free from intrusion and shielded from the public while an employee expresses breast milk; (ii) includes or is situated near a refrigerator (or a portable cold storage device belonging to the employee) in which the employee can store her breast milk; and (iii) includes access to an electrical outlet. Previously, the law only required that a lactation room or location be private, in close proximity to the work area, and not a toilet stall. Thus, the new law simply adds to the list of employer obligations to nursing employees (unless the employer can show undue hardship).

• “Captive Audience” Ban: In the midst of union-organizing drives across the country, including at corporate giants like Amazon and Starbucks, Connecticut passed a law purportedly intended to protect employees in the context of a union campaign. The new law prohibits all employers from disciplining or discharging an employee or threatening to do so because the employee refuses to attend what are widely known as “captive audience meetings.” Under the new law, employers cannot penalize employees for not attending mandatory meetings or viewing communications primarily intended to convey the employer’s opinion about unions, religious or political matters. Undoubtedly, this law will be the subject of legal challenges. For now, however, it is the law in Connecticut. But stay tuned.

Connecticut employers should familiarize themselves with all of the new or changed state labor and employment laws and ensure compliance to avoid liability resulting from any violations. Contact experienced labor and employment counsel for assistance.

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