Connecticut employers and small businesses often look to save money on payroll expenses by classifying individuals as independent contractors rather than employees. The practice, while not forbidden, is laden with risk. In order to compete, businesses in some industries decide to take that risk. Those companies that don’t take the risk, experience a hit to their profit margins.
The use of electronic communications and internet in the workplace makes it increasingly important for Connecticut employers, especially small businesses, to understand some basic laws governing what they can and cannot do when monitoring their employees’ electronic activity.
The Connecticut Electronic Monitoring Act
Yes, Connecticut employers may drug test their current employees, but not randomly unless the job is high-risk or safety sensitive. And thank God, since one report finds that 1 out of every 10 employees comes to work high on marijuana. Connecticut has a specific statute that allows employers to drug test current employees; only under certain circumstances and only if they comply with the statute.
If Governor Malloy signs it, a new law—sHB 6668, “AN ACT CONCERNING PREGNANT WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE”—will alter existing protections for pregnant employees, effective on October 1, 2017.
So many businesses rely on independent contractors to provide services to their customers. Home improvement contractors quickly come to mind. Businesses realize many benefits from using independent contractors, rather than employees. Not having to pay unemployment tax for the independent contractors is one huge benefit, and unemployment claims are usually when a business gets into trouble in this area.
We've been writing lately about the unemployment benefit process in Connecticut. You can catch up on prior posts here and here. The process is pretty informal, but your company should know the basics of the hearings and appeals. In this post we will discuss hearings, and then next time, appeals.
Employers and other defendants got a big win last week at the appellate court in Connecticut. In Palumbo v. Barbadimos (you can read the opinion here) the appellate court held that the defendant-employer had obtained a "vested right" to a trial before a judge once the plaintiff failed to claim a jury trial within the 10 day statutory time limit. Connecticut requires parties to file a jury claim within 10 days of the last pleading being filed to preserve the constitutional right to a jury trial.
It seems, from our practice at least, that the number of Connecticut Department of Labor investigations is increasing. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Labor has collected $1.6 billion dollars in back wages since 2009 through its investigation efforts.