How Connecticut Employers Can Be Ready for Legislation that Became Effective January 1, 2024

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With 2023 in the rearview mirror, Connecticut employers may want to confirm they have implemented the necessary changes to address legislative developments that became effective January 1, 2024.

Connecticut Minimum Wage

2024 brings a new minimum wage to Connecticut. Effective January 1, 2024, the new Connecticut minimum wage is $15.69 per hour, up from $15.00. This increase is the first index-based adjustment made pursuant to Public Act 19-4, which Governor Lamont signed into law in 2019. On an annual basis going forward, the state’s minimum wage will now be adjusted according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s calculation of the Employment Cost Index. New rates will be announced by the Labor Commissioner by October 15th of each year, with the new rate going into effect on January 1st. An important note for hotel and restaurant employers: for hotel and restaurant employees who receive sufficient gratuities, the employer share remains at least $6.38 per hour or $8.23 for bartenders. The employee must still earn at least $15.69 per hour including tips, however. Employers must follow recordkeeping and reporting obligations relating to tip credit.

Expansion of PTSD Benefits under Workers’ Compensation Act

Effective January 1, 2024, Connecticut significantly expanded the circumstances under which employees can receive workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress injuries sustained while working.  The Workers’ Compensation Act now specifically defines the following traumatic events as qualifying events triggering eligibility for benefits for all employees, not just the previously covered first responders:

  • Viewing a deceased minor;
  • Witnessing the death of a person or an incident involving the death of a person;
  • Witnessing an injury to a person who subsequently dies before or upon admission to the hospital as a result of that injury;
  • Treating and/or carrying an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission to a hospital as a result of that injury;
  • Witnessing an injury that results in the loss of a vital body part or vital body function that results in permanent disfigurement of the victim.

Under prior legislation, these benefits were available only to police officers, corrections officers, parole officers, and firefighters. The new legislation significantly expands the definition of an “employee” to extend benefits to all employees, including sole proprietors or business partners.

The duration of PTSD benefits remains capped at 52 weeks.

2021 Unemployment Reforms Take Effect January 1, 2024

Long-awaited reforms affecting unemployment compensation will also go into effect on January 1, 2024. Currently, existing law allows an employee to receive severance pay and receive unemployment compensation concurrently.  Due to a 2021 change in Connecticut’s unemployment compensation law, a claimant’s receipt of severance pay now results in disqualification from receiving unemployment benefits for the period of time covered by the payment.

The statutory language does not clearly address how lump sum severance payments may affect an employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits—i.e., will an employee be ineligible for the period of time the lump sum payment is intended to represent or just the week in which the payment was received?  The resulting ambiguity likely will result in creative approaches to negotiating and drafting severance agreements to address this new limitation so employers may want to be prepared to adjust their approaches to such agreements. 

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