CHAIRMEN: Senator Prague
VICE CHAIRMEN: Senator Gomes
REPRESENTATIVES: Noujaim, Aman, Hewett, Lambert
SENATOR PRAGUE: Hello everybody. Welcome to the Labor and Public Employee's Committee hearing. We're going to start the hearing.
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
SENATOR PRAGUE: We have a long list of people who want to testify so even though there's just two of -- three of us here, we're going to get started.
The first speaker is you, John. John McCarthy from the Labor Department.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Thank you very much, Chairs and ranking member. My name's John McCarthy from the Labor Department, and I'm going to make brief comments on -- on just two bills today, and maybe a quick comment on a third.
Committee Bill 362, equal pay for equal work, is a very important principle of American work life. I -- it's just that -- sorry. Okay.
Committee Bill 362, an act concerning equal pay for equal work. Certainly, we're in strong support of equal pay for equal work for everyone. I just wanted to mention, though, in the Labor Department, as the bill is written, it would be in one of the Labor Department sections. Our expertise is in collecting monies due to individuals, overtime, minimum wage, nonpayment of wages, et cetera. And in the course of these investigations, often -- on occasions, individuals raise questions with regard to potential matters of discrimination. And, when they do that, we continue with our wage activity, and we refer them to the proper agency that administers the laws on discrimination in Connecticut, the CHRO. So, my only comment is that it's -- it's a very important goal. It's just that our expertise is on the wage side not on the discrimination side with regard to that bill.
The other bill, Raised Bill 6460, an act concerning tip gratuities -- tip credits and gratuities, in this, particularly, at these economic times to lower the compensation of workers in restaurants, I think is something that certainly should not be supported. You know, until 2001, bartenders had no tip deduction of any kind. And this bill, if I'm reading it correctly, would raise their tip deduction by 20-some percent over what the law would -- presently allows.
In addition, Connecticut has a long history of defining service employees and reception of tips from individuals who receive service that merits in their view a tip, not individuals who are performing other duties in a restaurant setting, as this bill would include people who are indirectly tipped, individuals who are doing related or incidental work. So this would result in workers getting less pay. And, therefore, we think that's a bad idea.
There is a bill here, I believe today -- and I apologize, I'm looking quickly for the number, that has to do -- 5180, an act concerning out-of-state employment of Connecticut minors. We did make contact with New York State in this regard, and they indicated that anything we did would not be binding on them in any way. So I just mention that as a piece of information, not in anyway in opposition. But, their laws are different than ours. And so, if someone got a document in our state, they told us that it would not mean anything to them. But, I'm not opposing the bill, I just mention that as a piece of information. Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Just a minute, John, please.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: House Bill 6460, an act concerning tip credits and gratuities. I think I heard you say that you're opposing that bill.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. And you're opposing it because there would be people working in the restaurant that would get their pay reduced, and they would not be getting tips. Is that what you said?
JOHN MCCARTHY: There are people who are -- would be added to the list of individuals who would get a -- a lower minimum wage. So there would be individuals who would end up with less money at the end of the week under this bill then and presently.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. That -- I'm glad you brought that to our attention because that's not the purpose of the tip credit so thank you for bringing that to our attention.
JOHN MCCARTHY: You're welcome. You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any other questions from other committee? Yes, Representative Noujaim.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Mr. McCarthy, on reference to Bill 362
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: -- equal pay for equal work. You said that you receive information and then you turn them over to CHRO.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: In my understanding, something like this obviously, as we know, should not be done. How many cases you can speak about that have taken place during the past 12 months, let's say, I just like to know, how widespread the problem is?
JOHN MCCARTHY: I don't have an exact number of those that we made referrals on. But what I'll do is I'll ask our wage people to see what the number is. For us, you know, and I'm certainly I know for you also, Representative, you know, one is too many, but I will try to get a quantification for you.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you. I just like would like to know, are we talking 2, 3 or 500 for that matter? Just to have an idea of how widespread the problem is.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes. I mean, many people apply with concerns about allegations of discrimination directly to CHRO, of course. I'm just speaking about the ones that come up during the course of our investigation. I'll see if we have that for you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any other questions from committee members?
I'd like to -- John.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: This is your day today. I'd like to come back to this Bill 362.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: It has been my experience in working with CHRO that it takes them a -- a very, very long time to come to a decision. I'm questioning why the Labor Department can't take care of this situation where somebody reports getting less pay than their male counterpart for doing the same job. It's wages and why can't the Department handle that?
JOHN MCCARTHY: Generally, Senator, when an individual makes a wage claim, we'd get the records from the employer to find out what they were paid and then check -- balance the facts between the employer and the claimant. We don't particularly look at these eq -- what kind of -- if you look at the document itself talking about equal skill, effort, responsibility, similar working conditions, and then there -- in Subsection B, there are a number of definitions as to what would constitute a discrimination. We just try to get the money. And if a person says, you know, I think I got -- I also got less money because, and they cite one of the -- the statutory protective classes where there's age or gender, whatever it might be, we say, Well, if it's a -- if you are making a claim of discrimination, this is how you do it, and this how CHRO performs their duty under the law.
For us to attempt to become a discriminatory expert just in the area of wages, I think we -- that's my concern. We don't have expertise in the intricacies of discrimination. We do in the intricacies of getting you your money.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Oh, so, just so I'll understand this. You do get them the difference in wages that they did not get but were entitled to. Is that so?
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yeah.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay.
JOHN MCCARTHY: When -- we do our very best to get them a complete restitution based upon the facts.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. And then the further claim of discrimination is what you refer to CHRO.
JOHN MCCARTHY: Yes, yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you.
JOHN MCCARTHY: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: All right, John, thank you very much for your time.
JOHN MCCARTHY: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Next speak -- the next speaker is Steve Werbner.
STEVE WERBNER: Thank you, Chairs. On behalf of CCM I appreciate the opportunity to testify before this joint committee on an issue of concern to towns and cities. My name is Steven Werbner. I'm the town manager in Tolland and chair of CCM's Labor Committee. I'm here to speak on Raised Bill 804, which would allow the unions the right to reject arbitration awards and also stipulate that such organizations split the cost of the binding arbitration process that follows with municipality.
CCM is in favor of binding arbitration reform not repeal. However, this bill is the opposite of the much needed relief local government seeks in order to sustain critical programs and services throughout this economic downturn. In these economic times, any proposals which could have a negative impact on local revenues must be tabled for this session. In addition, the State has mandated that towns and cities follow one process while the State itself follows another.
CCM's recommendation for reform include the following: maintain the power of local legislative bodies to reject arbitrated awards by two-thirds vote but provide that the arbitration process would begin anew in event of such a rejection; allow local legislative bodies to reject stipulated board of education teacher agreements; allow for a single neutral arbitrator to be assigned by the state on a random basis with a predetermined fee schedule to be paid for by both parties; establish time frames and time tables and firm deadlines within the Municipal Employees' Relation Act similar to those contained within the Teachers' Negotiation Act; amend the statute -- statutes to ensure the criteria to take into account current economic trends and projected data that impedes the towns' ability to pay going forward; eliminate item-by-item decisions on economic and fringe benefit issues and treat those categories as a whole; allow for negotiations of fringe benefits involving town and board of education bargaining units to be done on coalition basis similar to that provided for within the state statutes; insert a definition of public interest in the criteria that states personnel costs including salaries and fringe benefits cannot be awarded in amount greater than the average increase over three years of general fund expenditures for local government.
In closing, CCM urges that you seriously consider binding arbitration reform in this session and either amend Raised Bill 804 to include our suggestions or take no action on Raised Bill 804. Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
Mr. Werbner, thank you very much --
STEVE WERBNER: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- for you testimony.
Is Senator Boucher in the room? Not yet. Is Senator Frantz in the room?
SENATOR FRANTZ: Thank you, Senator. I am indeed here. And Senator Boucher, I believe, is on the way down.
Senator Prague, and Representative Ryan, Senator Guglielmo, and Representative Noujaim, and all members of the committee, thank you very much for a few minutes this afternoon to testify in favor of House Bill 5248, which calls for a job impact statement with each proposed bill that comes before the General Assembly.
Briefly, we all know what the economic circumstances and fiscal circumstances are that we face today. It's as bad as it gets. And I -- none of us have ever seen conditions like this before.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Right.
SENATOR FRANTZ: And, hopefully, we'll never see conditions like this again. It's a very tenuous time in the history of Connecticut from an economic, as well as fiscal, point of view, and it's a time to be extremely careful about what we do legislatively. All of us sitting in this -- in this room today, all of sitting in the General Assembly, as well as others working for Connecticut state government, we're all well-intentioned. We work out of the goodness of our heart in all of our intended legislation. Unfortunately, what happens sometimes is we end up with unintended consequences with the laws that we propose. It's difficult to think through every single facet of the different laws that we put forth to be heard. So this Bill 5248 proposes that with each and every one of the bills that we propose in the future, we have with it a job's impact statement. And the reason for that is that there have been some examples in the past where we've unintentionally created additional employment for municipalities, in particular, when it's really not affordable or not appropriate.
A fairly good example of that is when the bill was passed to require municipalities to file electronically town meeting minutes and -- and -- and finances, and so on, and so forth. For many of the small towns throughout Connecticut, it was difficult for them to do that. They either found themselves going against the law not being able to afford an IT professional to come in and do that for them or even outside service to that for them or they just -- they just didn't file electronically and not as many people got the information that really needed it.
Another fairly good example, in my judgment, is one that I think you're facing or looking at today, which is Senate Bill 711 which is proposing the elimination of state assistance for companies that reduce retirement benefits. And, while that's a noble notion, I think this, I think that the unintended consequences here potentially for the State of Connecticut -- and I've been involved for 15 years in trying to create as many jobs as we can through a quasi-public called Connecticut Development Authority, you all have heard of it. And I know how challenging the environment is here in Connecticut to create jobs. Senate Bill 711 is well-intentioned, but you can imagine what might happen if a company gets into a position today not being able to afford pension benefits for their employees, which would trigger a reneging of state benefits, financial and fiscal benefits for that specific company. They'd have to pay back the state, and I think that would put the company into a worse financial position, possibly causing it to close its doors, file Chapter 11 and then we're left with additional unemployed persons in the State of Connecticut. Obviously, something we want to avoid in the spirit of economic development as well as shoring up our -- our tax base going forward, which I feel passionate about.
So to sum up, I think we can say that we need to be extremely careful. We need to use our best intelligence in passing all the bills before us this session and in all future sessions. And we need to know all the facts and circumstances, particularly, as it relates to employment going forward.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you, Senator Frantz. Any questions from committee members? No.
Well, thank you very much for coming.
SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you, Senator Prague, Representative Ryan and other distinguished members of the Labor Committee. I appreciate your consideration today. I am here to testify in support of House Bill 5180, an act concerning out-of-state employment of Connecticut minors.
Many Connecticut residents live in close proximity to other state lines and have opportunities to work across our state borders. However, a constituent has informed me current Connecticut statutes hinder minors seeking out-of-state employees -- employment. I might add that this individual is a selectman of one my towns, and she is a mother of seven children so employment is a very important issue in her family.
Under current general statutes the State Board of Education establishes procedures for the superintendent of schools to furnish any employer a certification of -- of age for any minor. This certificate is crucial because employers require this form from minor employees. And, currently, these certificates are restricted to in-state jobs. House Bill 5180 amends the general statutes to include out-of-state employers and requires the superintendent of schools or their designee to furnish certification of age to in-state and out-of-state employers.
Connecticut minors should not be hindered in their effort for employment. And this proposal remedies this issue by expanding the procedure for furnishing employers certificate of age. This change in statutes is especially important in this historic time of job losses when families may require everyone of working age to actually work, and minors must have the ability to access jobs wherever they become available.
Thank you so much for your kind attention. And I'm certainly willing to answer any questions you might have.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
REP. RYAN: Senator Boucher, how are you doing?
SENATOR BOUCHER: Very well thank you, Representative Ryan.
REP. RYAN: I don't think you were in the room, but are you aware of the comments that -- that the liaison from the Department of Labor made concerning the affect of this bill that it wouldn't be -- that our documentation wouldn't be recognized in other states?
SENATOR BOUCHER: No, I was not here for that explanation.
REP. RYAN: He did make that comment, yes.
SENATOR BOUCHER: But I would be willing to work with the committee and with others from the Labor Department to work out whatever issues might come up in this so that we can certainly make this process available to -- to -- to our residents here. I -- I understand that it is possible for other youths from other states to work in our state, but if there's something that is a barrier to that, we should look into it, certainly.
REP. RYAN: Okay. We'll kind of look at, maybe, having a sit-down with him and see what we can do.
SENATOR BOUCHER: Okay. That would be great. Thank you, Senator Prague.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Senator Boucher, John McCarthy is our liaison from the Department of Labor. I don't know whether John is still in the room or not. No, I guess he isn't, but he was very clear. He spoke to -- here he is. He spoke to somebody from New York. And they said, I guess, they really didn't care what Connecticut did. They don't have to honor it in their state. You might discuss that with John and see if there's a --
SENATOR BOUCHER: So you are saying that is a voluntary -- on the part of that --
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- of other states.
SENATOR BOUCHER: -- particular state, or is it on the particular employer? It -- is it a state regulation as to that they can be opened to honor it or not depending on -- on the circumstances?
SENATOR PRAGUE: You should ask John.
SENATOR BOUCHER: Okay, I'd be happy to do that.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Because I think that mother of seven, it would be very nice if her kids could work.
SENATOR BOUCHER: It certainly would be. And I -- I appreciate your time in raising this bill and certainly this issue. We don't want to preclude anyone in this environment from accessing a job wherever it might be.
SENATOR PRAGUE: That's true. Thank you.
SENATOR BOUCHER: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So our next speaker is Teresa Younger, foll -- followed by Representative Lesser.
TERESA YOUNGER: Good afternoon, Senator Prague, and Representative Ryan, members of the Labor Committee. My name is Teresa Younger, and I'm the executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. Thank you so much for this opportunity to testify in support of Senate Bill 362, an act concerning equal pay for equal work; and House Bill 6187, an act mandating employers provide paid sick leave for employees.
I'd like to start out by letting you know that you have, attached to my testimony, my written testimony, which has statistical data for you, as well as testimony that we have gathered from throughout the state from various women and women's organizations.
The PCSW has been working on behalf of equal pay for equal work for 35 years. This conversation is not new to any of us; and therefore, we have -- we are strongly supporting Senate Bill 6 -- excuse me -- Senate Bill 362, which would strengthen state law by providing an enhanced state enforcement for employees discriminated against on the basis of gender. Since equal pay ac -- since Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, the wage gap has closed at a very slow rate. In all actuality, in 1963, women working full-time were earning 59 cents to every dollar a man was earning. And, in Connecticut -- and in 19 -- excuse me -- in 2007, women earned 77.8 cents to every man -- to very dollar a man was earning. In Connecticut, they actually earned 71 cents. That means that the wage gap has narrowed by less than one cent per year. It's a pretty small process.
We have learned that women and men who start at the same point in their lives actually will end up -- women will end up making much, much less. Women will have -- have wage loss of anywhere from $700,000 for a high-school graduate up to $2,000,000 for a post-school graduate.
You have my complete data in front of you, but I just want to highlight for you a few instances where the wage gap is significant. Taking into consideration child care, taking into consideration all other things, how long a woman is in the work force compared to a man, female physicians and surgeons -- surgeons earn 41 cent -- 41 percent less than their male counterparts. Female in professionals related -- in related occupations earn 27 less -- 27 percent less than their male counterparts. Female college and university teachers earn 25 percent less than their male counterparts. Female lawyers earn 23 percent less than their male counterparts. Needless to say, when we consciously determine that we are going to have equal pay for equal work, this state will be better off. This is some -- a movement that is continuing and should continue here in Connecticut, and thus, we are supporting this bill.
You have my written testimony in support of House Bill 6187, providing -- employers providing paid sick leave for employees. I'd just like to point out a couple of quick facts for you. One, 40 percent of Connecticut employees have no paid sick days; 77 percent of low -- low-wage workers lack paid sick days; and 78 percent of employees working in the food service and accommodations lack sick days. You have the rest of my data, and you will hear from people throughout the afternoon in support of both of those bills.
Thank you very much.
REP. RYAN: Thank you.
Do we have any questions for Ms. Younger?
Thank you. We appreciate you being here.
TERESA YOUNGER: Thank you.
REP. RYAN: Next we have Matthew Lesser -- rep -- and he'll be followed by Representative Schofield. Representative Lesser will be followed by Representative Schofield.
REP. LESSER: Thank you. Chairman Ryan, Chairwoman Prague, ranking members and other distinguished members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify in support of House Bill 5521, an act eliminating credit reports as a basis for employment decisions. For the record, I'm Matthew Lesser, Representative of the 100th District.
The use of credit histories for employment decision is a critical problem facing many Connecticut families. As it stands, even if you are otherwise qualified, you can be denied a job in the state of Connecticut simply because a credit rating agency says that you are a credit risk. This bill would have no effect on the right of employers to use criminal background checks on employers -- on employees or prospective employees which will continue to be permitted, nor would it prevent credit checks when the credit history of the applicant is substantially job related when it is otherwise required by law or when an employer has specific reason to believe an employee may have violated the law.
This bill has precedent. The State of Washington passed a nearly identical law in 2007. Five other states have passed restrictions on the use of credit reports for employment decisions. And a front page article last week in USA Today reported more states are considering restrictions this year.
There are many reasons why it makes sense to restrict the use of credit histories for employment decisions. They are an invasion of an employee's right to privacy. Credit reports are notoriously inaccurate and have been demonstrated so by several studies. They have little or nor predictive value for employers, and they have been shown to reflect significant racial and ethnic biases.
I will focus though on one additional reason. They hurt families in this re -- in this economy. Perhaps, at one point, credit histories told you something about a job applicant. Maybe they told you of an applicant was like -- was responsible or mature; maybe they could predict if applicants were likely to steal from the register to pay off their debts. Even if you assume that either or both were true, despite any evidence showing any correlation between job performance and credit history, in this economy, they certainly are not now. With so many more people being affected by job losses and related bad credit.
So with that, I thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of House Bill 5521, and I urge you to purport favorably on the bill. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you, Representative Lesser. Any questions?
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Madam Chair.
You put me in front of the Chair when I'm willing to yield my time. I hope he doesn't take it out on me in the future. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, Representative, good to see you.
REP. LESSER: Good afternoon. Good to see you.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you so much for your testimony. I really appreciate it. And it's a very good topic. Normally, I tell my constituents that we are not geniuses. We wait for them to give us ideas and tell us about things that are happening out there in the real world.
Was there a precedent here for you to introduce this bill? Did you hear from constituents who said they were discriminated against for -- for employment because of -- because of this situation, because of their credit report?
REP. LESSER: Yes, absolutely. And the -- what I think really astounded me when I looked into this -- and I did start hearing from constituents, is just how widespread a practice this is. In 1996, only 16 percent of employers looked at applicant's credit histories. Today, that -- well, in 2004, the study by the Society for Human Re -- Human Resource Management showed that that number had increased to 35 percent. And this is something that people are generally not aware of. A VISA study showed that 80 percent of Americans just have no idea that employers are routinely looking at applicant's credit histories. And this is -- this is -- this is an increasing problem, and it's a wide spread problem, especially, as we're seeing in today's economy, when bad credit is no longer limited to the poor. It's something that affects a wide swath of middle-class residents of this state. So this is -- this is -- this is a problem. I'm -- I'm confident that it's a problem in each and every district that we represent. And I feel it's something that's particularly timely given the state of our economy.
REP. NOUJAIM: Do you know if employers have a precedent of asking potential employees --
REP. LESSER: Uh-huh.
REP. NOUJAIM: -- to pay for the credit report when they're requested or employers have been paying for it themselves?
REP. LESSER: As far as I know, employers generally pay for the credit reports themselves. They -- it's part of employment screening. I've never heard of case where they would ask an applicant to pay for the fee. But, I -- I -- I -- they generally -- lump that together with other parts of employment screening, notably the criminal background check, which is obviously not effected by this bill.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Ryan.
REP. RYAN: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
I have a couple of questions. You cite the fact that a few states already have this law. Do you have any indication of how well the law has worked in those states? Any kind of proof -- evidence that it's been successful?
REP. LESSER: No, no, I don't. I think the -- the problem is the State of Washington passed a law in 2007. And I don't know if any data that has come back since 2007 or since the law took effect that would indicate its -- the fact that it works. I think one of the -- the out -- the big question of the law is the fact that it did -- does give employers a degree of discretion. It says that if an employer determines that the credit check is substantially job related, then they can still go ahead and perform the credit report. I think that that's a good question to see whether that's an appropriate level of discretion or not to see if it actually limits this practice.
REP. RYAN: And then in -- you cite some exceptions on line -- well, between line 6 and 10, but the one that I were looking at is the third exception: The employee has a reasonable cause to believe the employee has engaged in specific activity that constitutes the violation of the law. Can you cite an example of what -- what's being -- what you have in mind when you say?
REP. LESSER: I actually don't because that was actually inserted by the committee when they -- when the committee adopted the law. So, I'm not -- I know that that language is included in, and -- forgive me, Chairman, I believe that language was, though, taken from the statute in the State of Washington. I believe that was included there.
REP. RYAN: Okay, so it is used then, that language there. Okay. Well, thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you for coming in, Representative Lesser.
REP. LESSER: Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Our next speaker is Representative Linda Schofield followed by -- who's from the Chief State's Attorney's Office?
A VOICE: Kevin Kane.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Is that -- is that Kevin Kane? Okay, followed by Kevin Kane.
Representative Schofield, are you here? No.
Is our Chief State's Attorney here? Mr. -- no, that's not Kevin Kane.
MICHAEL GAILOR: Senator Prague, Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane is not here. I am here as his designee, per se. My name is Michael Gailor.
SENATOR PRAGUE: That's fine.
MICHAEL GAILOR: I'm executive assistant state's attorney. I'm here to speak on Raised Bill Number 6333, an act concerning collection of employee DNA. This bill has been proposed for the purpose of creating a limited exception to the statute which defines unfair labor practices to allow law enforcement agencies to collect DNA from their employees who are involved in the collection of evidence.
The problem we have is that empl -- any person who is involved in the collection of evidence can transfer their DNA to that evidence. In order to detect that contamination, we need to be able to request the DNA from the employees who are collecting it so we can determine whether or not they are the ones that contaminated it. As the statute read now -- reads now, it seems to prohibit the requesting of genetic information from any employees. We want to make it clear that it's just for this limited purpose of making sure that there's no contamination.
Since this bill was purposed, I have had discussions with representatives of Department of Public Safety and with the state police union, and we have talked about protections that might be necessary to preserve the rights of the employees, and we're willing to work with the -- those individuals on doing that. Some of the discussions we've had involve making the penalty provisions of the DNA data bank provisions, regarding the misuse of such information, applicable to the taking of these samples. Other discussions we've had involve making sure that these samples do not go into the nationwide CODIS databank to be compared for every crime that is committed. We would only test these samples and look for contamination -- thanks.
With respect to the additional language that might be necessary in order to protect the rights of the police officers involved in the collection of the data, we are certainly willing to work with the members of the committee, the Department of Public Safety, and the state police union to draft such language.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much.
Any questions from committee members? No.
MICHAEL GAILOR: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Is Representative Schofield here yet? Well, we'll go on to Senator Caligiuri, followed by Larry Deutsch.
Is Senator Looney here? Where's Larry? Oh, we'll here's Senator Caligiuri. We'll let him go first because he has a caucus.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Good afternoon, Senator Prague, Representative Ryan, ranking members Guglielmo and Noujaim, and members of the Labor Committee. For the record, my name is State Senator -- I'm State Senator Sam Caligiuri. I represent the 16th Senatorial District, and I'm here today to testify in favor of Senate Bill 362, an act concerning equal pay for equal work. And I'd like to begin by thanking the committee for raising this bill. I think it's a very important issue. And I'm very grateful that the committee has seen fit to raise it for a hearing and for discussion today.
Very briefly, the goal of the bill is to strengthen Connecticut's equal pay laws. We know that women continue to be paid less than men for performing similar work. According to a 2008 United States Department of Labor Study, women still earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men in the workplace. It's my belief that we need to strengthen our state laws to help close this gap.
The bill seeks to achieve that goal by doing the following five things. First, requiring employers to justify gender-based pay discrimination once an employee demonstrates that his or her employer pays men and women differently for equal work. Currently, the employee retains the burden of proof throughout this legal proceeding.
Second, the bill creates whistleblower protections for someone who opposes discriminatory pay practices or has filed a complaint or assisted someone who has done so.
Third -- may I continue?
SENATOR PRAGUE: (Inaudible.)
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Third, the bill strengthens the penalties for an employer that is found to have engaged in illegal gender-based pay discrimination. In addition to being required to pay the pay differential between what was paid and what should have been paid, the bill would also have an employer who's found guilty under this law liable for compensatory damages and punitive damages if the violation is found to be intentional or reckless.
Fourth, the bill clarifies that an employer is liable for the illegal practice for as long as it existed, even if the illegal practice is not discovered by the employee until after it began. And, finally, the bill extends the statute of limitations for bringing claims of pay discrimination from the current one year to two years.
And, as I wrap up, some ask the question, why do we need this bill, given what's been happening at the federal level with the strengthening of the federal Equal Pay Act. The question is, why do we need to strengthen our current laws in Connecticut? And I'd like to briefly tell you why, in my opinion, we do. We have two parallel sets of law. We have the federal law, and we have the state law. And an employee who's been aggrieved has a choice that he or she can make to bring the case under federal law or under state law. There are certain advantages to plaintiffs in the state law both procedural and in terms of having it be more cost-effective to bring a claim in state court. The reason I believe we need to strengthen these laws in Connecticut is so that an employee doesn't have to chose between going to state court and benefiting from a better procedural model and lower costs but trading off better substantive law. And so I think as a matter of policy if we can make both sets of law equally strong, then a claimant can bring a case in either court and not have the quality of the law be a defining issue.
And with that I thank the committee for hearing me out. And I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
REP. NOUJAIM: Good afternoon, Senator.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Good afternoon, Representative.
REP. NOUJAIM: My senator.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: You are my representative.
REP. CALIGIURI: Thank you, sir. Senator, I would like to ask you, your last statement about making the federal law equal to the state law. And an employee would have the choice to either go in federal law or state law. Are we duplicating efforts?
SENATOR CALIGIURI: No. I don't think we are ultimately because I would point out that we already have laws on the books in Connecticut that would prohibit gender-based pay discrimination, so we're not creating a new law. What I'm proposing is that we strengthen the existing state law. And the reason, ultimately, that's not duplicative, and the reason I think it's beneficial is because of the other reasons that people think through when they decide whether to bring a claim in federal court or in state court. And I think that because there are certain advantages to bringing a case in state court, we -- I believe we should make the law equally strong on the merits. So I don't believe that it would be duplicative because in a -- a law already exists. This is more a matter of strengthening the law.
REP. NOUJAIM: What would the advantage be, in your opinion, to bring a case in a state law versus a federal law?
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Having talked with lawyers who represent claimants in these types of actions, one of the big advantages is that it is often less costly to access the Connecticut state court system than it is to access the federal courts. And so for -- take for example, a female employee who earns a modest living who doesn't have a lot of resources, it may make a difference as to whether she can bring the claim that it is more cost-effective for her to bring it in state court rather than in federal court.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you, Representative Noujaim.
Any other questions?
Senator Caligiuri, I'd like to ask you a question about that statute of limitations. Is that two years the same as the federal statute of limitations?
SENATOR CALIGIURI: The combination of the two provisions that I talked about having a claim relate back to when if first occurred even if you didn't know the discriminatory practice existed at the time and the two years, I believe, would bring us in line with federal law.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Which is what?
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Which, I believe, under the current proposal is two years.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. As long as that's equal because we don't -- we don't want to cheat women of every opportunity that they have.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: Oh, no, no.
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- to make things fair.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: No, it's my understanding that this would create parity on that issue --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: -- between the federal law and the state law. And if for some reason, I'm mistaken, I would gladly change that provision in the bill, Senator Prague.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Good. Thank you.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you for this piece of legislation, also.
SENATOR CALIGIURI: It's my pleasure. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be heard on this.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You're welcome.
Next is --
A VOICE: Representative Schofield.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Scho -- Dr. Deutsch. Let's do you next, and then we'll do Representative Schofield.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Thank you, Senator Prague and all members of the committee staff. And thank you to members of the public who are here in attendance and watching at home as I speak on the paid sick days, Provision HB 6187. I hope those watching at home are not doing so because they have or need a sick day.
Our concern is -- is about paid sick days relates to my profession which is a pediatrician first. I've then worked in public health as a medical director serving the State's Medicaid population at community health centers. And, lastly, and perhaps most critically at this moment, I'm on the City Council of Hartford -- this city.
Last night I had the misfortune of reviewing my testimony from last year, and it's a misfortune because now we once again have to go over the same thing and speak and have you listen again on the issue of paid sick days. There were about four reasons given last year and still pertain this year. But what did happen last year? We -- we feel that everyone thought it was a good idea whose time had come, but maybe someone sneezed or coughed and near the late night session of last -- last term, apparently some special interests derailed the bill.
I won't document many numbers, but I will include just a few brief questions as we think this through now. The first point to be made is the paid sick days enhance public health. We asked do you have a paid sick day, and note that at least 40 percent of employees in the state don't. Do our office and cafeteria workers in this very building have them? We sure hope so. Obviously, the point here is that there can be contagion and injury in the absence of the ability to have a paid sick day to remain home or see a doctor or nurse in order to take care of a medical situation.
Second point is that paid sick days help families hold onto their jobs and their health. How would you decide to stay home or come to work if you're coughing and feverish, if it meant losing pay or the job itself? And how about if a child or elderly relative needed your help on such a day?
Third point, paid sick days increase preventive health care. Have you all here had a checkup in a regular medical home in the past year? Do you know if your blood pressure, sugar and weight are all under control? We hope so, and also would like them to be checked but question whether if it meant losing a day's pay or job that some individuals would go ahead with that preventive care.
Finally, we think that paid sick days are smart business and good government. How do you feel when you come into a store or restaurant, or your local office with co-workers near you who are hacking, wheezing, feverish or limping around the office? It seems that good health policy benefits businesses, small and large. And there are documents to show the ben -- the beneficial financial effect with those -- those businesses that do offer paid sick leave. What would you decide if you were a business or government if you supervised those who worked in a diner, a law office, or an aircraft engine plant and you had to counsel them on whether to stay home when they're ill or come in nevertheless because they had no time to attend to their illness or their wellness?
In concluding, if you look on a long list of supporters of this paid sick day's bill, you'll find unions, social workers, professionals and all kinds of people. I would ask why we can't find the Chambers of Commerce, the CBIA, and some others there taking a more informed and larger view. That one I can't figure out because we do think it's in the interest of business and government, as well as individuals, families, and the -- and the general health.
So we would just like to ask that -- say that this bill -- the benefits seem pretty obvious to most people, workers and families, nurses and doctors, shoppers, diners, and even some employers and wonder why we can't get it together this time before midnight.
Thank you for your attention. Are there any questions on the subject?
SENATOR PRAGUE: Committee members have any questions? Representative Noujaim.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Senator.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Good afternoon.
REP. NOUJAIM: You state in your testimony, Doctor, that you are a paid pediatrician which means that you had an office and employed people.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: No, not always. Sometimes a pediatrician can work in a community health center which means that he or she works on a salary just like nurses and assistants, and so on. And I've tended to do that as well as other things. It varies.
REP. NOUJAIM: But when you, when you are a pediatrician were you an employer?
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: No. I haven't been in a position of running an office, although I've been in plenty, and I know the tension that exists when a nurse or a medical assistant or anyone feels sick and the question is whether the office can afford or will pay for a sick day. It's always an issue.
REP. NOUJAIM: So you never were an employer, which means you never had to meet a payroll, a payroll every week; is that correct?
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Except as a taxpayer, who then employed the service workers, yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: Okay. But as an employer, you did not have your own LLC or your own company?
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: That's correct. I preferred medical care to management, yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: But thank you so much.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Committee members?
Dr. Deutsch, I just want to, number one, thank you for coming in. And, number two, you know, in Forbes Magazine, they are probably one of the outstanding business magazines in the country, they have a website and on their website they had this huge article about paid sick time.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Uh-huh.
SENATOR PRAGUE: And the advantage to employers --
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- of having paid sick time and how much money they saved on a yearly basis, I can't remember the exact amount, but it was enormous. And they are very big proponents of the business community supporting paid sick time.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: Absolutely.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So thank you.
DR. LARRY DEUTSCH: I -- I would comment there as a coalition, everybody benefits, which show that businesses benefited as well by imp -- improving the state of health of their employees as well as those who come to them. Thank you for mentioning that article.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
REP. SCHOFIELD: Hello, way down there. My goodness, I feel so far away from you all. Thank you, Chairman Ryan and Prague for giving me the opportunity to testify on behalf of House Bill 5185.
As some of you know, I used to run a state program here in Connecticut, and we contracted frequently for services from subcontractors and always were extremely scrupulous about following the rules in doing so. We had a very good contract administrator and so we always looked very carefully at the qualifications of the bidder, the nature of the work that they -- the work plan that they described and the cost. But we never ever gave a bidder sort of extra points, if you will, for placing their employees in Connecticut. And we often lamented that. We -- we felt really if -- if they're going to hire people in Connecticut or locate people in Connecticut, it would be a good thing for the Connecticut economy. And here we are in a situation where we need to create jobs so it occurred to me that it might be useful to try to work with our current contracting system to award bidders extra points, in essence, for employing workers in Connecticut who would then pay income tax.
So what this bill does pretty simply is, is take the bidder's financial component of their bid, in essence, the price that they're going to charge and deduct from that price or allows the bidder to deduct from that price the equivalent amount of income tax that their employees would earn doing work on contract in Connecticut.
So just to give you an example if -- if an agency was to establish that they need a call center to handle complaints from some department in the ag -- in the state, bidders could come from anywhere. They don't have to be located in Connecticut, but those bidders that locate the workers of the call center in Connecticut, knowing that they're going to have 20 workers and that each of them's going to earn $40,000 a piece. You take that 20 times 40 workers times the 5 percent income tax and that dollar amount would get deducted from the -- the bid price. Thus, making their bid a little bit more competitive compared to someone who would put that call center in India, or Utah, or some other place.
To me it makes sense to encourage business to locate the jobs here and to give Connecticut workers the opportunity to compete for Connecticut work that's being paid for with our tax dollars. And it won't cost the state anything really because all you're deducting you're going to get right back in state income tax. So I heard the bell ring; I'll stop there.
REP. PRAGUE: Representative Schofield, if you have something else to say, please don't let the bell stop you. This is a -- an excellent idea.
REP. SCHOFIELD: Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Nobody else has ever thought of this, and several of us have been concerned about awarding state agency contracts to in-state contractors.
REP. SCHOFIELD: Yeah. I think that the important thing to remember here is there -- there -- there is a concern and I -- someone from DAS grabbed me a little earlier -- there's a concern in -- in past bills, where you're creating an incentive to hire companies that are located in Connecticut or headquartered in Connecticut. This doesn't do that. This gives any company, located from anywhere, the opportunity to compete equally. All they have to do is make sure that the workers that are going to do the work for Connecticut are located in Connecticut. So you don't run into that issue of reciprocity and, you know, well, hey, if you're going to do this to us, we're going to put bad points against you, too. And that, that, I know that that's a valid concern about some of the other contracting proposals that have come up. But any contractor, no, regardless of where they're located, would be able to compete fairly so I don't think you'd run into that reciprocity problem.
REP. PRAGUE: Again, thank you --
REP. SCHOFIELD: You're welcome.
REP. PRAGUE: -- very much. Any questions from committee members?
Thank you, Representative Schofield.
REP. SCHOFIELD: Thank you very much.
REP. PRAGUE: Is Senator Looney here? Is somebody going to testify for Senator Looney? Okay. Well, if he comes in, we'll let him testify.
Next speaker is Jon Green, followed by Janice Williams.
JON GREEN: Good afternoon. My name is Jon Green. I'm the director of Connecticut Working Families. I want to thank the members and the leaders of the committee for raising House Bill 6187, which would establish a minimum number of paid sick days for employees at businesses with more than 50 employees in the state.
There are several compelling reasons why I think you should again support this legislation. You'll hear today and get written testimony from employees, employers, physicians, school nurse -- school nurses, labor leaders, consumer advocates, and others. And it isn't often that a bill unites such diverse constituencies. But there are so many good reasons why this bill should be supported, and that's why I think you see the broad diverse cross-section of constituencies supporting it.
First, it is, as Dr. Deutsch mentioned earlier, an important issue of public health. As you probably heard before, a very large percentage, roughly half of all workers in our state, have no paid sick days. And a large percentage of those are in areas with a very high level of interaction with the public: restaurant employees, retail employees. Even some health care workers frequently have no paid sick days. These employees prepare our food, handle our groceries, and care for our sick and elderly. And, when they come to work sick, it puts all of us at risk.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly half of all transmissions of norovi -- noroviruses are caused by sick food-service workers. I think you have written testimony from a health care worker who has to go to her job with the flu caring for sick and elderly people.
A second reason to support the paid sick day legislation is that it improves access to preventive care and early treatment for employees and their children. We hear a lot about health care reform in this building. And there are a lot of areas of disagreement, but I think one area where there's often agreement is in the need to ensure that people have access to preventive care and early treatment for chronic illnesses, and that those kinds of responsible health care consumption habits can lower costs for all of us. But, for hundreds of thousands of employees in our state, the lack of sick days is a barrier to receiving that kind of preventive and early care for their illnesses.
You know, people who don't have paid sick days are not going to go to the doctor when they're sick. Instead, they're going to end up in an emergency room at a far more costly -- in a far more costly health care setting. I'll -- if I can just continue very briefly. We've heard from opposition that there are, you know, business owners who do not support this because they believe it will increase costs. I think Senator Prague cited an important article in Forbes Magazine. It says, if you're sick, by going to work, you actually increase costs for your employers. They cite a study that says that presenteeism costs employers $180 billion a year in the United States, far more than the cost of absenteeism.
Fortunately, we don't have to depend only on speculation about what the impact to employers would be. We have an example where the City of San Francisco passed a sick day's requirement for all employers in the City of San Francisco, whether you had zero employees or a hundred. Every employer provides paid sick days. And what they have found is that that did not cause the economic harm to employers. In fact, in the restaurant industry where the concentration of sick days was the lowest before, they still saw job growth over 4 percent in the year following the passage of the sick day ordinance.
Even the Restaurant Association has conceded, as according to a quote in the LA Times, sick leave, especially for those who handle food, is an important public policy. The mandate is affordable considering the public benefit. That's from the head of the San Francisco Restaurant Association.
I'll stop now, and just ask if there are any questions. I have written testimony that you all have as well. Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
I'm sorry you didn't mention that article from Forbes Internet. Did you mention that?
JON GREEN: I did mention it.
REP. PRAGUE: Oh, good.
JON GREEN: I even mentioned that you had mentioned it.
REP. PRAGUE: I'm so busy reading Representative Schofield's testimony here. Well, thank you for doing that because that really is important for CBIA to hear.
JON GREEN: I would agree. I actually assumed that they read Forbes more frequently than I do.
REP. PRAGUE: Probably.
JON GREEN: Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you, Jon.
Followed by Gloria is it Duquette?
JANICE WILLIAMS: Hi, my name is Janice Williams. I live in Hartford and work at Stop & Shop in Windsor. I have been a Stop & Shop employee since 1978. And I'm also a member of the executive board of USCW Local 371. I'm here to testify in support of HB 6187, the paid sick day bill.
I want to share my story as an example of the benefits of providing paid sick days. This is a benefit that I have received throughout the years I have worked for Stop & Shop, and I know it has been important for myself and my son. There have been several occasions when I've had a cold or flu and, having paid sick days, gave me the piece of mind that I could stay home and recuperate without being penalized with the loss of pay for a few days. Losing a couple of days' pay out of my paycheck might not sound like a big deal to some people, but with the cost of living in Connecticut, I can tell you that for many hourly workers, like myself, losing 20 to 40 percent of your paycheck for a week is a big deal. For some people, that means they can't make a car payment, rent or utility bill. Because I have paid sick days, getting sick has not caused economic hardship on myself.
More importantly, having sick days have enabled me to ensure that my son can get the medical treatment that he has. I have a 13-year-old son, Daekwon, who has asthma. So, in addition to his regular once-a-year physical, I also take him to the adolescent clinic at St. Francis for regular checkups. He get medication prescribed there and a plan of steps we can take to contain his asthma. Once I did have to take him to the emergency room to get treatment, but this only happened once. When I need to take Daekwon to his yearly physical at St. Francis for treatment of asthma, I can do so without worrying about how I can afford to pay my bills that month because I lost a day's pay.
Of course, like many other children, Daekwon also gets sick with the cold or flu. Having paid sick days means that when he gets sick, I can afford to stay home with him for a day or two to take care of him. If I did not have sick pay days, I don't really know how I would manage taking care of him without losing the money I need to support him. And, by myself, staying home with him when he does get sick, I don't have to send him to school where he could spread his germs and he gets better faster. So that's better for everyone.
The moral of this story is, when it comes to getting health care for myself and for my son, I'm doing the exact thing that I should be doing, preventive maintenance. We both get regular checkups. We get early treatments with chronic illness. When we're sick, we stay home just like Governor Rell says on TV. But, if I don't get paid sick day, this would just not be possible. With the cost of everything going up these days, we would have a tough time paying our bills if I did not have to lose pay.
I also want to say one other thing. I've heard that some elected officials say that people would abuse sick days if they had them. I think that is very insulting to workers. In my 30 years of working for Stop & Shop, I have never abused our sick-day policy. I use my sick days when I'm sick or my son is sick, period. I get nine sick days per year. I probably only use about five, yearly. Some workers in our stores don't use any of them at all. I know that there might be one or two bad apples at any job, but the vast majority of us care about our jobs and work hard. We're not lazy; we don't cut corners; we don't cheat. I don't know anyone at the Stop & Shop where I work who have called out sick when they weren't sick. So please, not accuse workers of abuse. It's only very insulting.
Thank you for listening. And I hope you pass the sick bill.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you for coming in.
Are there any questions from committee members?
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Senator.
JANICE WILLIAMS: Afternoon.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you for coming to testify. Just one quick question, you made a statement that you only used half of the sick days in one year that Stop & Shop offered you.
JANICE WILLIAMS: Yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: Does the company pay you for the balance?
JANICE WILLIAMS: Yes, they do.
REP. NOUJAIM: -- if you did not use them? They do. Okay, thank you very much.
JANICE WILLIAMS: Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you, again, Mrs. Williams.
JANICE WILLIAMS: Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Next speaker is Leslie Weinberg, followed by Debra Noble, and then Deb McKenna.
LESLIE WEINBERG: I already gave the committee copies of what I was going to say, but I'm going to say it anyway but briefly. Most of my life I have been a part-time, low-wage worker without any benefits, whatsoever, at all. At the time I was living with my parents so I wasn't paying rent or utilities or great amounts of food, so I could afford it.
But over the last 16 years or so, I have worked as a volunteer with a Head Start in Stamford. And what I see very often is that the parents who most likely don't have any paid sick days send their children to class anyway. And what this means is that the cold or the flu or the virus or whatever it happens to be, goes around, and around, and around. The teachers who I work with get sick days. I'm a volunteer so I don't have to go in if I'm ill. But the Head Start population and their parents are quite vulnerable. And these people, as well as just us, need access to preventive care and testing for various conditions and related treatment if necessary. It's -- the students who I work with, if you don't test them for vision or hearing or other issues they may not be able to learn as well as they might once they get into school. So I support paid sick days, and I hope this bill is passed.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you very much.
Any questions? No.
Next speaker is Debra Noble, followed by Deb McKenna. Is she here? Are you Deb --
DEB MCKENNA: Good afternoon. I'm Deb McKenna.
REP. PRAGUE: Okay. Okay, well, you can testify if Debra Noble -- okay. She's stuck in traffic. So when she gets here, she can testify.
DEB MCKENNA: Okay.
REP. PRAGUE: Somebody signed her up.
DEB MCKENNA: Okay. Good afternoon, Chairman Prague and Chairman Ryan. My name is Deb McKenna. I am an attorney at Outten & Golden. I practice in Stamford, and I practice in the area of plaintiff, plaintiff's side employee rights. I'm here to testify on SB 362, Connecticut's Equal Pay Act.
Just to give you a little bit of my background before joining Outten & Golden, I spent ten years at Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn, and Kelly in Hartford. And I've always devoted my practice to employee rights. I'm here also on behalf of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association to str -- show our strong support for the passage of the proposed Connecticut Equal Pay Act.
As I'm sure many of you know, despite the fact that Connect -- the women in Connecticut make up nearly half of the work force, they're still only earning approximately 77 cents to every dollar that a man earns. And this -- this really is a disparity that the bill can take some steps to affec -- to work against.
I know that there's going to be some testimony later on in the bill, so I'd like to just focus on three main points on why I think that it's important that we pass this -- this particular bill. First of all, this bill tracks the language of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act. It also tracks what has been proposed as Paycheck Fairness Act, which is pending but has not yet been passed.
One of the main benefits of the Ledbetter Act was that it addressed the problem that many employees have, in that they -- when they determine that -- or when they learn that they are being paid at a different rate than their male co-workers, it turns out that decision may have been made at the time that they were hired. And so what -- what the Ledbetter Bill did was correct a decision of the Supreme Court, which said that if you didn't file a claim of discrimination within 180 days of when you learned of that discriminatory practice, you could no longer bring the claim. What the Ledbetter Bill does is change that to within two years of when you'd learn of the violation. It's a continuing violation so each paycheck is a new act of discrimination.
What the proposed bill does for Connecticut is it also modifies the Connecticut's existing Equal Pay Act to allow that the same type of calculation for the statute of limitation would apply in Connecticut. So that would mean that, that you would have two years from when you learned of the discriminatory practice to bring the claim and that each additional paycheck is considered to be a continuing violation of the law. That's the first -- I think that's the first point that's really important to point out, and important in the change in the proposed bill.
The second -- the second point I wanted to raise is that under the existing Connecticut Equal Pay Act, there's a -- there's a provision for retaliation, but, essentially, you know, without any (inaudible.) There the language as it exists now states that if a conviction is determined then the employer's on the hook for $200. Now that is no real disincentive to retaliate against any employee who may bring these types of claims. And, as we see in our practice, you know, day in and day out, retaliation happens; retaliation claims are real. And there is -- if there's no disincentive, they're -- an employer's going to continue that behavior. So I think that the proposed bill, which, again, tracks the Equal Pay Act, the Lilly Ledbetter, and the Paycheck Fairness Act addresses that. Gives some real meat to the retaliation provision and really would make an employer think twice about whether or not they were going to take steps to go after an employee who raised concerns about their paycheck.
The third -- the third point I would like to make is that the provi -- there -- the provision as has been drafted in the bill that you're considering allows an employee to take their claim either through the Department of Labor or through Connecticut state court. And I think there might have been some earlier questions about why we needed a Connecticut state act when we have a federal act. And under the federal act you can go into federal court. But, just in -- based in my practice and what I've seen, federal court can be a very intimidating place for an employee, particularly an employee who may not have a lawyer helping them. And it's important to have these types of prem -- remedies available to employees who may wish to bring their claims in state court, who may not wish to incur the cost of an attorney, and who may feel that a state court is a more friendly place for -- for her to bring such a claim. It certainly -- there is a definite feeling that when you're in federal court, it's just a much costlier, much more intimidating process.
So I think those are the three main points that I wanted to make on the bill. Why I think it's important that we consider it, particularly, in this day and age as we all know women make up, you know, the breadwinners in many families. And it really is a disservice to everyone in Connecticut when employers are allowed to get away with this type of conduct. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
REP. PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members? Yes. What's Barbara's last name?
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you, Madam Chairman.
It was asked to Mr. McCarthy before if this is something that often happens, but, listening to your testimony, it sounds like this is something that's ongoing especially because you're talking about punishment and different things. So are you -- is this bill a common practice?
DEB MCKENNA: I wish that it wasn't but it is. It is. Just like the discrimination laws haven't outlawed sex, you know, straight sex discrimination, it -- it still happens.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you. Because asking that question before I -- I almost couldn't believe that this was -- there was nothing in front of him that would have given us that much more. So this is still a prevailing situation and, this remedy isn't just to -- for past practices. This is what you're talking about the future and punishment and so that women would have equal pay.
DEB MCKENNA: It is, yes.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you.
DEB MCKENNA: You're welcome.
REP. PRAGUE: You're welcome.
Any more questions?
Thank you very much for coming in.
DEB MCKENNA: Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Women -- women should not be treated like second-class citizens.
The next speaker is Sharon Patterson-Stallings, followed by David Moakley.
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: Good afternoon.
REP. PRAGUE: Good afternoon.
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: My name is Sharon Patterson-Stallings, and I'm chair of Hartford ACORN. And I'm also elected member of the Hartford Board of Education. I'm here to express my strong support in favor of House Bill 6187, for paid sick days. I've submitted written testimony to you, but I'll just use this time briefly to tell you about four individuals that could not be here today because they couldn't afford to be here because of taking time off from work would cause them to, perhaps, lose their job.
The first person I'd like to tell you about is Alex Cotto. He's a young man who works in a kitchen of a major restaurant chain. He's worked there for three years. He hasn't had one day of sick time. Alex knows that if he's sick, he shouldn't be in a kitchen that should be the last place that he should be. But, as a working person struggling to make ends meet, he makes the tough decision and he calls in sick. His boss then will inform him that if he takes any time off, it will be considered unexcused and that he could, possibly, if he added these days up, be fired from his job. So he makes the -- the decision to go to work. He's the parent of two children so he needs to work.
Second is Diedre Dawson. She also works for a major chain. She works 32 hours a week. She had a stroke and had to go to work the next day when she got out of the hospital. So she had no -- I mean, she had no time to convalesce.
Third is Tony Gonzalez. He's another Hartford resident. Last year when we had invited him to come here to speak to you, his girlfriend went into labor. And so he called his boss and asked for three days off. He was told that he had to choose between his family and his job. Tony decided that he needed to be with this girlfriend and see his son born so he took the time off and he was fired. He's now working at another job, but he still does not have sick time, so, therefore, this is job he can't afford to lose.
REP. PRAGUE: I hate to say this but could you wrap up. We're running way behind time, and we're trying to give everybody three minutes.
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: Okay, yeah.
REP. PRAGUE: I'd really appreciate that. Thank you.
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: I just have one, a forth one. And this is a young man that has worked at a job for ten years to pay his mortgage. He recently came into our office, our ACORN office, because he was in danger of losing his home. He's another person that has to go to work. He's cert -- he feeds 500 people a day. And this is a prevalent thing that's happening in our restaurants.
We recently had, at UConn, one of the restaurants where some UConn students ate at, and we have 14 of them get sick, and this because someone in that restaurant had to go to work sick.
So, therefore, I strongly support and think that House Bill 6187 is a step in the right direction to guarantee families sick time. Thank you very much.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you.
Any questions from committee members? No. Seeing none -- Why do you have a mask on?
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: Well, this to symbolize that no matter where we are --
REP. PRAGUE: There's germs.
SHARON PATTERSON-STALLINGS: There are germs and sick people. Thank you.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you.
Our next speaker is Debra Noble.
And Debra, I'd ask you if you could talk fast and keep your comments within the three-minute time frame, if you can.
DEBRA NOBLE: That's not a problem.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you. Thank you.
DEBRA NOBLE: Senator Prague, I'll be happy to do that.
Good afternoon committee members, Representative Ryan, Senator Prague. I, too, am in here also to speak in favor of House Bill 6187, an act mandating employers provide paid sick leave to their employees. You have my testimony in front of you. I won't bother to read it. That would be redundant. And I won't reiterate what Sharon Patterson-Stallings said because we all know from the testimony that you heard last year, the testimony that you've heard this year, what you've read in the papers, and the studies that you've read, that providing paid sick days to all employees regardless of their part-time status, full-time status, temporary or full-time worker status is the right thing to do. It's very black and white. When workers are sick, they cannot be productive at work. It is not good for business. And, overall, it is not profitable.
For organizations to come here and sit before you and speak against this bill and say that this mandate is unfair to businesses is incorrect. I know what I'm speaking about. I am an employee, a professional employee. I do not have paid sick days. I have not had paid sick days for over a year now. In addition to that, I also do not have access to health care insurance. I am an accident waiting to happen. And I sit before you as one. However, there are 70 people in my department at the insurance company I work at -- mind you, I work at the insurance company not for the insurance company -- and those 70 individuals are in the same typhoid-infested boat that I am.
If you were to pass this law and if it were to be signed, every one of us would be eligible for paid sick time. Thank you for your time. Do you have any questions?
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you very much for coming in on your testimony. You say that you are currently sick, you know, you're nursing a cold.
DEBRA NOBLE: Yes, ma'am.
REP. PRAGUE: What have you?
DEBRA NOBLE: As are four other people in my department, four out of 11.
REP. PRAGUE: Thank you for coming in.
DEBRA NOBLE: You're very welcome.
REP. PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members? No.
So thanks again.
DEBRA NOBLE: Thank you. Have a good evening.
REP. PRAGUE: Dave Moakley, you're the next speaker, followed by Glenda Grelak.
DAVE MOAKLEY: Good afternoon, Senator Prague, Representative Ryan, the rest of the members of the Labor Committee. The Operating Engineers Local 478 is testifying today in favor of Bill 5185, an act concerning permissive and straight contracting preferences. We're also recommending that the committee take this bill beyond the current scope by eliminating language that limits the preference to contracts won only by bidders from states that also have preferences. We ask this to help in-state construction companies that are currently competitively bidding for work against companies from adjoining states, like New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, that do not have local preference statutes.
In-state companies hire local workers, use local suppliers, and return their profits to the community. They support programs, like Little League, help with local charities, and add to the livability of our towns and cities. When construction slows down, companies from adjoining states with no stake in our communities begin reaching beyond their local market to seek work. They bring their work force with them, depriving Connecticut workers of the opportunity to work on jobs that their state and local taxes are paying for.
Unionized construction workers can be hir -- unionized construction companies can be required to hire local workers, but there's no control on nonunion contractors. They, kind of, will employee who they want from wherever they want. There are also other factors and bids by out-of-state companies that give them advantages. Liability and Workman's Compensation insurance can cost less in other states. This gives a foreign corporation a cost savings that will show up in the final price.
Something that should also be considered, however, is the definition of an in-state contractor, should mean a company with their head quarters in Connecticut, not just a business address renting an office in the state and putting a secretary in it for one month prior to submitting a bid would seem to satisfy the resident bidder language in this bill. This will do little to help construction contractors that are paying property taxes, motor vehicle registration fees, business taxes and all the other fees associated with living and doing business in our state.
An out-of-state corporation can spend one month's rent to find out if they won a bid and leave if they don't. Joint ventures also have to be addressed. Large out-of-state businesses can partner with local contractors that will perform only a small portion of the work and claim to be resident contractor by using the smaller company's address.
DECD money that the State pays should also be covered by this statute. To show that this is a problem in the construction industry, I've attached bid sheets from jobs that have been recently awarded in this state that would have gone to local companies if this law was in effect, and two that are currently in the bid process. One that is bidding is a private job, which would not be effective but serves to show what may be coming towards us as the economy deteriorates further.
I've also attached a list of states with resident contractor statutes and abstracts of the statutes. The bill's a good idea for Connecticut companies and workers they employee. We hope you move it forward.
I'd also like to note support of Bill 6187, the paid sick leave, and also 5155, the bill for establishing wage and other standards for contractors. They have -- they have an ordinance just like that in New Haven, and it works very well. Thank you very much. The end.
REP. PRAGUE: Are there any questions?
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Senator.
Good afternoon. In reference to 5185, basically, it states that if you are a contractor within -- who resides and do business and is incorporated in the state of Connecticut, you'll receive a five-point preference on the opportunity to bid on the job.
DAVE MOAKLEY: For -- if -- if you're bidding against a company from a state that also has a preference.
REP. NOUJAIM: Say that again, please.
DAVE MOAKLEY: If you are bidding, if -- if the company who wins the job also -- if the state that the company that wins the job is from -- has a preference also. It -- it's not just a clear 5 percent for being a Connecticut company.
REP. NOUJAIM: So we have reciprocal with other states, as well.
DAVE MOAKLEY: So if it's a reciprocal -- it would have to be a reciprocal state, yes. And there's a list of those on that sheet that I put on the back.
REP. NOUJAIM: That's what you are proposing. That's not what is in the bill now.
DAVE MOAKLEY: No, that's what I am proposing. Yes, it's not in the bill.
REP. NOUJAIM: Okay. Thank you. That's what I wanted to clarify.
DAVE MOAKLEY: Okay, I'm sorry. I misunderstood you.
REP. NOUJAIM: That's okay. Thank you.
REP. RYAN: Representative Lambert.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to I'll get a clarification over Representative Schofield's testimony.
DAVE MOAKLEY: Yes.
REP. LAMBERT: It seems that she would have been content as long as the workers are from Connecticut, and if they had a clearinghouse or whatever as you explained. But you want to go further then that and make sure that the headquarters, I just want to understand, the headquarters is in Connecticut as well as the employers.
DAVE MOAKLEY: If -- if not the headquarters at least the substantial operation. I'd hate to see this be defeated by somebody, like I said, coming in renting a single-room office, putting a secretary in it for a month before the bill -- before the bid and then just leaving afterwards and claiming they're a Connecticut company.
Our companies that work in the state pay too much in taxes and go through too many hoops to -- to have to bid against somebody who can also take it for 5 percent deduction.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
DAVE MOAKLEY: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Glenna Grelak, followed by Steven Rief.
GLENNA GRELAK: Good afternoon. My name Glenna Grelak, and my family has owned and operated the Hawthorne Inn in Berlin, Connecticut for 64 years. And I'm here to speak about the tip credit, which I believe I spoke on about 12 or 13 years ago, also, and side work.
I have statistical data on my company that my wage staff make about $20 per hour in tips along with their wages. So we would like to see the tip credit continue and follow with our -- the way we've written the bill to follow with increase as the minimum wage increases. Every restaurant in the state has to file an 8027 Form. You could track the income of tip income, and it is substantial so that you can prove to yourselves that all of these employees are making well over minimum wage when they work as well as when they do side work. So we'd also like the side work bill to follow.
In 1990, I was audited, and they wanted me to have every employee to punch in and out to do side work and then when they were waiting on tables to punch in and out for that. There's no time clock in the world that you can do with that with. It's -- it was an administrative nightmare, and we -- after that, shortly thereafter, decided to just pay them half hour minimum wage for that period of time. In 2007, I was audited again for a similar situation. An employee said they weren't making enough money to cover the minimum wage. I had an auditor come in on December 7th, our busiest time of the year, and she was there for ten minutes. She called her boss and she said, These people are making well over minimum wage per hour. I ask that you consider that. And if you need any backup, we'd be happy to support that.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
I have a question to ask.
Did you have a question? Oh, Representative Lambert.
REP. LAMBERT: Not knowing that kind of business, could you just clarify what “side work” is? You're saying they have to go off the clock and on the clock. And with -- is that something that happens when they're not receiving tips?
GLENNA GRELAK: Side work would be cutting lemons. But you could be cutting lemons while you're also waiting on a party. So it became an administrative nightmare to try and get them to punch in and out to cut lemons or whether you had to move a table and chair and reset that table and chair for a function that was coming in in ten minutes. So it just didn't work out very well that way. And I can substantiate on my payroll that every one of my wait staff make way over minimum wage per hour.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Ryan.
REP. RYAN: If I may comment. Good afternoon. Thank you for coming in -- the comment about the fact that the auditor spent ten minutes and was able to determine that they were getting paid. How -- how was she able to do that so quickly? I don't understand that.
GLENNA GRELAK: I believe that the auditor came in with a specific person in mind. And I had two years of time cards lined up. And she took a couple of -- maybe ten time cards, and she took the tips and the hours worked, and she divided the two hours, and it was well over that -- that amount.
REP. RYAN: She spent ten minutes reviewing (inaudible.) Thank you.
GLENNA GRELAK: Uh-huh.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I'd like to ask you how you would address John McCarthy from the Labor Department. His concern is that there'd be some people who would get a pay cut that they don't get tips, and under this language he thought that they would not be getting a fair wage.
GLENNA GRELAK: I -- I, I think that if you looked at every restaurant and you take the tips that they'd go home with, it's well over minimum wage. I don't know any restaurants that would -- it would not qualify.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there people covered in this bill that don't wait on tables, that don't get tips?
GLENNA GRELAK: I do not -- I don't think so. But we could ask our lobbyists for clarification on that.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Because you don't want those people to have to get a -- a tip credit. I mean, they don't get tips.
GLENNA GRELAK: Right.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So they would just get the basic wage, whatever hourly wage you were paying them.
GLENNA GRELAK: The tip credit is for tipped employees.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Period.
GLENNA GRELAK: Right.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you.
GLENNA GRELAK: And, and we have cut -- employees that are tipped that makes -- there are some employees like bus boys make straight minimum wage plus tips. A lot of the restaurants have cut their bus staff to nothing, already.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you.
GLENNA GRELAK: Uh-huh. Thank you.
STEVEN RIEF: I don't want to just presume that I was next. I am.
Thank you, Senator. Good afternoon, Chairman Ryan, Chairwoman Prague and distinguished members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Steven Rief. I'm the Connecticut State Police Union president. I appreciate the opportunity to speak before you today. I'm here to speak in opposition to proposed Bill 6333, which is an act concerning the collection of employee DNA.
As many of you may be aware, I've been a trooper now for 20 years, 13 years in the Eastern District Major Crime Squad. I represent 1160 union members in the state police made up of troopers, sergeants and master sergeants.
Advances in law enforcement or forensic sciences have improved greatly in recent years. A matter of fact because of forensic sciences, DNA is now a common household name. These advances along with improvements investigative in evidence collection procedures have enabled law enforcement to apprehend, try and convict individuals on DNA and evidence that, at one time, was not possible. There's a most compelling need to protect the citizens in our communities apprehending those in society that commit crimes against them or their property. The bill proposed before this committee is seeking changes in the state statute that says, Statute 46a-60, subsection A, and in this particular case, number 11. It's presently a discriminatory practice for the employer to request or require genetic information from an employee or someone that's under their employment or member and certainly can't discharge or expel or otherwise discriminate them based upon that material.
There are a number of concerns proposed -- or brought on by this proposal in the change of the statutes. It would allow state and local law enforcement or the Department of Public Safety Commissioner or the Division of Scientific Services to request and require employees to give this -- this information. There's civil right issue -- civil right issues, collective bargaining issues, federal and state constitutional protections that are all called into question by this. It doesn't say just law enforcement employees. It says employees. I will wrap it up since the time has gone off by saying that --
SENATOR PRAGUE: No. I think it's important that you describe this -- your position here because we have an opposing position by our chief state's attorney.
STEVEN RIEF: Yes, Senator. I will tell you that -- I lost my train of thought here. Give me a minute.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Maybe you could tell us your own words why you --
STEVEN RIEF: Sure.
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- think this is bad legislation.
STEVEN RIEF: There's -- first of all, it's collective bargaining issues, which I have brought to our agency for the last year and half, Department of Public and Safety. There are civil rights issues. We have protections under the federal and state constitutions that are called into question about unreasonable searches and, et cetera. There are additional concerns about -- there's no policy in place currently right now. There are -- where is this material going to be housed in which database. Right now, there's only a database by statute, as you're probably aware for -- for certain offenders, namely felons, also sex offenders in -- in crimes against people -- I'm sorry -- crimes against children. This would extend and go way beyond that.
And I think due diligence is the call for the day here. There's a number of concerns related to this. How long will the records be kept? Who will access it? Under what authority? Right now, they're trying to do it under consent, which I have raised to the department that -- that is, is a -- it's not really consent because it's not -- it's, I'll say coerced at times or inferred. These are all concerns not knowing that this bill was coming forward that are going on right now in discussions most recently in January.
The federal and state courts have long upheld the rights of the citizens of the United States merely because I'm a police officer and my colleagues are police officers, we do not give up those rights. This would change that significantly. It would -- it would matter of fact mandate that we would have no say in it. That should alarm people. We -- it's not that we can't work through these problems. It's just that we have to sit down and make sure that protections are not glossed over. That the -- intentions of the state and federal laws are upheld, and I don't want to see that circumvented.
Now there are different ways that you can go about doing this, and I am -- I have been talking to the Chief State's Attorney's office, because I have a willingness to resolve this issue so that some negative legislation doesn't become law, and, therefore, damage our -- our troopers, our law enforcement people. And, the fact, it could extrapolate out to other people in other employment areas as well.
See, the bottom line is, is civil rights issue. If you really truly want to get DNA from everybody then get them at birth. You get just about everybody. But I don't know that we're ready to have that discussion. Recognizing all of the things that I've said, I, myself and my colleagues, want to apprehend people that have committed crimes. That's our number one goal. That's what we are sworn to uphold the law and enforce the law. But, having said all that, there needs to be deliberate discussions before something like this takes place. So that when we get down the road and something happens that's not as black and white, if you will, that there are protections for the employees and citizens in this country and in this state. And, right now, those discussions haven't been vetted out thoroughly. I'm here to answer any questions.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you for you testimony.
Any questions by committee members?
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, officer. I really apologize, but I'm a little confused and perhaps our attorney can help us with this. I am reading the body of the bill. And it says, this is 6333. Correct?
STEVEN RIEF: Yes.
REP. NOUJAIM: I'm looking at the body of the bill and it says, in line 8 through line 30 -- 12, except that the state of local law enforcement agency -- agency, the Department of Public Safety of the Division of Scientific Services may request and require. I'm a little confused in here because it seems to me that the bill exempts you from DNA. But that's not what you're saying. You're saying just the opposite.
STEVEN RIEF: Presently -- to answer your question, presently in statute, under 46a-60, the employer or the State of Connecticut cannot ask for it and can't require you. This would prove an exception to say that state or local law enforcement authorities, the Commissioner of Public Safety or the Division of Scientific Services which under Public Safety may request and require employees. So it would be an exception to 46a-60 would allow them to go in.
REP. NOUJAIM: Okay. Is -- is this written appropriately then? Am I just myself confused?
Thank you for humbling me, Mr. Chairman.
SENATOR PRAGUE: It's easy to be confused with this bill because, primarily, we thought this bill was to protect police officers in order to clear them of any involvement by collecting their DNA and then it would be clear that they didn't have any involvement in a particular crime or investigation.
REP. NOUJAIM: And that's how I am understanding.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Well, Representative Ryan, do you have a different interpretation of this?
REP. RYAN: Bear with me. I think my understanding of the bill, and, maybe, you know, maybe this was in the case where there's a crime scene, and DNA's been collected and there's been a number of investigating officers on the scene, I guess, the other investigating officers want to be -- at least the way this is brought to us, is they want to be able to eliminate that DNA that may have been brought to the scene by one of the investigating officers so that whatever DNA they do find, they think is that of the perpetrator. And I -- I -- I thought it more in the way of helping you and your fellow officers to make sure you're going after somebody -- the right DNA and look for the suspect because of that with that particular DNA and not be looking for your fellow police officers then cause you don't know it's, you know, you're looking at their DNA. I thought that was the purpose of the bill, and that's my understanding of what it's trying to do. Again, I understand your concern and it's not collected the way I read the bill, until such time as they may need that until that kind of circumstances arises. I think when they may request it, yeah, for the contamination of samples. So they wouldn't have to be automatically given, it would only be given in those situations where that is required is the way I'm looking at it, and the way it's been, you know, brought to me.
STEVEN RIEF: I can tell you that there are certainly a -- I've had a number of discussions over a course of three hours or so with the Chief State's Attorney's office. I'll first say that my intention is to work with them on this piece of legislation to try to resolve these issues, also with Commissioner Danaher, and the Department of Public and Safety. However, what they purposed to do is to, at their choosing, on the front end select or identify, let's say, major crime detectives. And they will have their DNA on file, or their profile on file, after they collect their DNA, and they will maintain that in a, as proposed to me although it's not in this legislation, in a side -- I'll call it Pool B for the sake of argument. So Pool A will be all the DNA that's been collected by convicted felons and those other people that are identified by statute, people that have been arrested and served time. Pool B would be this -- this other group law enforcement could -- could be fire, ambulance, others, lab people.
And they have -- they actually -- I listened to Mike -- the end of Mike Gailor testify from the Chief State's Attorney's office, and I have a genuine desire to resolve these issues. And we are having good dialogue, so I don't want you to think that. But I'm here to alarm -- to send off the alarm to -- to make sure that you're aware that while good intentioned -- and I would argue that this discussion is ripe for the time. The time of the DNA that we -- capabilities we have today. But having said that, it's also ripe for the time before this gets implemented to make sure that these safeguards are put in place.
So that while good intentioned as this is, and I believe that it is, there's all these other issues that need to be dealt with that that we've had some time to think about over the last year and a half, and they have not been resolved I might add. So their intention is not merely to -- if they suspect that I worked on a given investigation and there's -- they've ruled out certain things, and they think there might be contamination of a sample that they have DNA. It's an unknown source. Well, that may be a possibility that's not what they're looking to do.
They're actually looking to collect it on the front end, and then after they've checked, let's say, with the Pool A people, and they get no hits, if you will, no matches, then depending on how the investigation is going, maybe they're going to say, well, maybe it's -- it's contamination and so now we'll check against that Pool B to see if it is, in fact, contamination.
The problem is, is that while that might be well-intentioned, as well, what happens if it's somebody that gets identified in that pool and they weren't at the crime scene, and they don't work on the case at all, but their DNA's there. I don't know if we can exclude them from being a suspect. I would say that reasonable thought would say they are a suspect because that's how we investigate crimes. You -- you keep them in until we can rule them out. And so while on -- you can have a general discussion that's saying most likelihoods that wouldn't be the case. I can think of examples where it may. And so now things happen as a -- as a employee with the state police or other police departments, such as, you get suspended until there's an investigation and you're being criminally investigated, so now you need a criminal attorney and you get treated differently, like guilty until proven otherwise, by law enforcement because there must be something they wouldn't have suspended their powers. This is what we need to talk about. This -- these are the concerns that we have. And I can go on, so, obviously, I will leave it with that. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Lambert.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you, Madam Chairman.
According to the witness testimony that we received from the Division of Criminal Justice, they say that they want to change what is on the statute -- excuse me -- but they only put in, on his testimony anyway, that allows from police authority. It doesn't say, it says law enforcement. You went on to say, excuse me, which would make more sense, firemen or anyone else that would be at a crime scene. But in his testimony it says HB 6333 creates a limited exception that allows the samples to be taken from law enforcement authority for the specific purpose of detecting contaminated samples. So is this something that you are working out now, being president of your union, is this something that you're telling us should think to be better handled in negotiations in that you'd set parameters of how and where this would be stored rather than have us pass some kind of legislation that we're under the guise that we're helping and to protect? It would be something that you're negotiating? You're saying you're in talks. Is this a negotiated thing that you're doing right now?
STEVEN RIEF: It hasn't been yet. I've been pushing that issue for the last year and a half which surfaced again in January.
First let me state that I recently talked to State's Attorney Mike Gailor, who testified here today in very good discussions. And they're -- it's my belief that their motivations are pure, and that there's not an intention. I don't think that anybody -- I want to state, I don't think that Department of Public Safety or Chief State's Attorney office is intending something else. I think it's well-intentioned. It's also as I said ripe for discussion. However, these issues need to be addressed. I would -- I would argue that it absolutely is a collective bargaining issue.
Right now as employment, pre-employment for law enforcement, you take finger prints. DNA is -- is the most personal of information that you could have about one's person. It tells you about -- it's a building block of life. It tells you about every intimate detail both from the individual, as well as their hereditary. These are things that the court has looked at in the past, our criminal courts, and has made decisions based upon that; such as, we have to get in law enforcement if we're looking at somebody not in law enforcement, or even in law enforcement. If we want to test a particular piece of evidence that we might have seized in a crime, we have to get specific language that's called a Joyce Warrant. It's not sufficient enough that we seized it under a search warrant, but we have to get specific language if it's going to information learned from that that is of the utmost private information from a suspect or somebody out in society. And so that's called a Joyce warrant. It's been around for many, many years now. Or you need to put that Joyce language in the search warrant. I'm not trying to be overly technical here. But the courts -- the criminal courts have that bar, that threshold. And we do that in law enforcement daily. And so what I'm saying is that the due diligence should also be here.
Now, I have talked to Mike Gailor about the fact of -- it's much more reasoned to maybe have some type expedient process to which you could get an ex parte search warrant, such as we get for phone records, which is -- it's easier to obtain. It still has to go through the State's Attorney's Office and ultimately the courts. A judge in superior court has to look at it, but it would be somebody objectively. And, certainly, you could make it a very easy case.
We had a case out in Eastern Connecticut, which started this, in 2007 -- well, the case, the murder wasn't in 2007, but the issue came up in 2007. And so if you believe that there's a good possibility it might be from somebody that was at the scene collecting evidence and you want to try to identify the source of the DNA, I think that if you have those arguments that you can make, and you can, then you could get a search warrant for that. And I think that that's one of the avenue that would be in the right direction.
Aside from that, my intention is to work with the Chief State's Attorney's office and the Department of Public Safety; however, I don't want to look away our collective bargaining agreement with the State of Connecticut. And so I think you could have work in both areas, I just want to caution this committee that I don't want something -- I would prefer. It's not my choice, but I would prefer and offer up that it would not be without some work on this language. It would not be in the best interest of those in which you're trying to help, and, in fact, would actually, could find themselves on the other end of this.
DNA is so sensitive now, that they can, they have actually detected lab techs that have been anals -- anali -- say that again -- analyzing evidence from scenes where they've they're finding their own DNA on that evidence just by handling it at the lab during the testing procedures.
And so is it possible that somebody in this room today could go into the bathroom and use the bathroom and some time after they leave something happens where a crime's committed and their DNA is there. And while you might be able to say, I was there before and have an alibi. What if you exhaust all those means and it's just -- you can't say, you can say why you're there, but it's people aren't buying that? Now there's a whole other issue, and I will tell you that you'll be a suspect until you can be eliminated. And if at the end of the day you can't be eliminated, well, it might not be sufficient for an arrest, you're still a suspect.
And these are the issues that I wanted to talk about. And it's much more labor intensive. I think collective bargaining is one issue, the down side of collective bargaining, on the back side is if you come to an impasse, the state or our union or any other union can go to an arbitrator, a neutral. The problem is that once it goes to the neutral, it's going to land on one side or the other. I think that the proper place along with collective bargaining, understanding collective bargaining agreements, is to have these discussions with all the stakeholders in the room so that we can have a reasoned discussion and a reasoned result with these safeguards in place.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You're welcome, Representative Lambert
Mr. Rief, we have on March 12th is our JF day which means that's the day we vote our bills out of committee. If you want a language change, you got to get that language change to us before March 12th. So I suggest you continue your conversations with the Chief State's Attorney's Office. We thought we had a bill that was going to protect the state police. Apparently, you don't see it that way. So you sit down and start talking and get us some language.
STEVEN RIEF: In all due respect to you, Senator and Chairman Ryan, because of the immediacy of this -- this hearing today, I spoke to the Chief State's Attorney and have given them my word that we'll continue to work with them. We talked on Thursday morning for several hours, again, on Friday morning so we're trying to work through that. And so I didn't want catch you off guard here today. Unfortunately time and all the other issues that are at hand in this state did not afford the opportunity to rightfully inform you of this.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Well, I'm glad that this was brought to our attention before we voted this bill out of here. We want to do it and do it right. So we'll expect to hear from you. How's that?
STEVEN RIEF: Yes, Senator. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you.
Representative Noujaim has a question, Mr. Rief.
REP. NOUJAIM: Thank you, officer. Not a question of you, but a point of reference if I may.
But, Madam Chair, would this mean that now we'll be holding this bill off discussion until we receive some more language and/or an agreement?
SENATOR PRAGUE: Oh, yeah. We're not going to move on this bill until we hear from them because we want the right language. We thought this bill was going to protect the state police, you know, that's the impression we got when we were asked to raise this bill.
REP. NOUJAIM: That was my impression from the beginning. Thank you, Madam Chair.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
STEVEN RIEF: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: It's Irene Pia, followed by Alexis Highsmith and then John Burton. Okay. Any of those three people here? Oh, okay.
IRENE PIA: I'm going to say good evening now, Senator Prague, Representative Ryan and members of Labor Committee. I'm Irene Pia, area director of operations for Chili's Grill and Bar. I represent 18 casual dining restaurants in our state. We've done business in Connecticut since 1987, and we employ 1,349 residents. I am here today to present my support of the Senate Bill 222, an act concerning the tip credit.
The cost of doing business in our state are among the highest in the nation. We have one of the highest minimum wages and a lower tip credit. We're the only state in all of the New England States and New York that pays more than $5 an hour to our service staff and pays an increased rate to our bartenders. The intent of the committee Bill Number 22 is to freeze the tipped wages at their current rate. To accomplish this, the bill increases the tipped credit in 2010 when the minimum wage is set to increase again by 25 cents. For bartenders, the tip credit would increase from the current 11 to 13.75 percent. For servers, we believe there's a drafting error in the tip credit. The language should increase the tip credit to 33.1 percent to keep the tipped wage level. Otherwise, restaurants will be faced with yet another cost increase in 2010, 17 cents per hour for servers and 22 cents per hour for bartenders.
There are some examples that I have that illustrates some of the average expenses incurred without this enactment. Labor expenses per week would total $158 for the average restaurant. Over the course of the year, it would be $8,200. And our expense to Chili's, over the course of the year, would be $156,000 for the 19 restaurants that will be in operation by the year 2010. These additional expenses to the restaurant are ultimately passed down to our consumers through increased menu prices and decreased service. I'm certain that you've all experienced both. We ef -- effect our employees through reduced staffing levels and ultimately fewer jobs. There are many restaurants that have already cut back on the number of employees they utilize for every shift.
Just last week, I spoke to a concerned guest regarding the modest price increase that we took in January. He couldn't understand in this economy how we could even consider raising our prices. Reflecting on the conversations I had with many of our young employees, all of them, the recipients of these wage increases, most of them had no idea that they even got one. As operators, we would prefer to pass those savings along to the people who cook you food, most of whom work two full-time jobs just to try to make ends meet.
We pride ourselves on being about people not just about profits. Since October of 2006 through this April, we've opened six new restaurants in the state. These six restaurants alone have added 500 jobs and 24 managerial positions. Given the opportunity, we would put that $156,000 saved to work toward building more restaurants and creating more job op -- job opportunities and being able to pass along that same steady value to our consumers that they enjoy today. I -- I also would like --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Do you mind wrapping up.
IRENE PIA: I -- I am wrapping up.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Oh, good.
IRENE PIA: I -- I want to speak to just one more bill which is the House Bill 6460 which also addresses an ambiguous interpretation of the -- by the Department of Labor in regard to what side work is.
Side work duties are generally accepted industry tasks that get ready for service and breakdown after -- after the service period is over. They can be anything from making coffee to setting and clearing tables and routine service. The bill would recognize these duties as service related and allow us to pay the tip credit wage during these duties. For the entire shift, our servers would still earn well above the minimum wage. I just wanted to add that to make sure that there was some clarity on that bill. Thank you for your time.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Anybody have any questions, any committee members? Representative Ryan.
REP. RYAN: I can't help but say this -- and this is really an aside. The fact that the Chili's in Montville has become a really vibrant part of our community. And its manager goes out beyond, I think, the scopes of his duties to really be inclusive in the community and be very generous. So --
IRENE PIA: Thank you.
REP. RYAN: -- I just can't help but mention that while you're sitting there (Inaudible.)
IRENE PIA: Thank you. Nate, wonderful.
REP. RYAN: -- Nate's a great guy, and he's my constituent. So just tell him I said that, okay.
IRENE PIA: I certainly will. Thank you very much. That's easy.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any other favorable comments from committee members?
IRENE PIA: I'll take them.
REP. NOUJAIM: Senator.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Noujaim.
REP. NOUJAIM: The Chili's in Waterbury has the best -- best margaritas I've ever tasted.
IRENE PIA: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You're making points here.
IRENE PIA: I am, I am.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Lambert.
REP. LAMBERT: This is back to work. Excuse me. I just want to ask you
IRENE PIA: Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
REP. LAMBERT: -- you, you make, I asked the question before about side work because I wasn't clear about the distinction. So you're saying that while those people are doing side work like wrapping up, some people just use your napkins, you have handicap, there's different people that work there. Those people are not doing tips. How do you clarify the difference between the side work and the people that are getting tips because you mentioned that you wanted that included?
IRENE PIA: The -- the only people that would be included in the tipped pool are people who are our service people. So if someone's paid to just roll silverware or bus tables, they're not inclusive in the tipped wages. And so they're -- they're not included in this -- in this bill.
REP. LAMBERT: So they wouldn't be punish as it was told to us before that some people may have their -- their actual salary reduced. So they would not be affected by this at all.
IRENE PIA: No, not at all.
REP. LAMBERT: How would you distinguish that? Would you have to give a list? Or do you have a list of that being separate? Or do these people have dual --
IRENE PIA: They have separate job, job codes, job duties and clock-in rates. So certain positions are tipped positions and then certain positions are not. If that answers your question.
REP. LAMBERT: It does.
IRENE PIA: Okay.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you, Senator.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much.
Okay. Alexis Highsmith, followed by John Burton.
ALEXIS HIGHSMITH: Good afternoon, members of the committee. My name is Alexis Highsmith. I am an attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid. I'm here to testify in support of Senate Bill 733.
This bill creates a civil action for employees and potential employees who are victims of inaccurately reported criminal histories by consumer reporting agencies. Connecticut's Legal Services Program support this bill but with suggested changes that we have discussed and agreed to with Senator Looney who proposed this concept.
I am also here to support House Bill 5521, which prohibits employers from using credit reports as a basis for employment decisions.
I will first address Senate Bill 733. In my work at Legal Aid, I represent clients applying for pardons from the Board of Pardons & Paroles. These are people who have stayed out of trouble and made positive contributions to both their families and the communities for many years. My clients encounter barriers to employment, housing and other benefits because of their criminal records. The pardons process is daunting. The written application is overwhelming, and the hearing is intimidating. Getting through this process and receiving a pardon is quite an accomplishment. A pardon proves they have been rehabilitated under the law. And it's supposed to mean that the criminal record -- that their criminal record is erased and no longer subject to disclosure.
Two years ago the legislature mandated that consumer reporting agencies must use the most accurate and updated information available when disclosing criminal records to perspective employers. Since the passage of this initial legislation in 2007, policymakers and advocates have worked with the consumer reporting agencies to ensure that the implementation of these new requirements are not unduly burdensome for these agencies. Unfortunately, some of the companies have still not fully complied with the law and have disclosed to perspective employers conviction information that has ultimately been erased.
Legal services has seen numerous cases where clients have been denied employment because their supposedly erased records have shown up on their criminal background checks. We have learned that many of these larger agencies contract with smaller agencies to gather information on criminal histories. These subcontractors are not necessarily following the requirements of the law which call for any entity that is disclosing criminal matters of public record to purchase updated information from the judicial department monthly and to use this information to update and permanently delete any erased records. We have also seen these same violations amongst smaller independent credit agencies.
Just last week a legal aided client was denied a job as a certified nurse assistant based on a background report generated by a consumer reporting agency that showed her old convictions even though she had been granted a full pardon in July of 2008. The legislature cannot accomplish its goal of promoting the employability of rehabilitated individuals unless there are enforcement mechanisms built into the language that prohibits disclosure of erased records. Individuals must have a remedy available to them for situations where a consumer reporting agency provides inaccurate information based -- information to a potential employer.
In its current draft Senate Bill 733 gives a job applicant a private right of action against a consumer reporting agency if it discloses inaccurate information. While this is a positive step, it does not fully advance the legislature's intended goals. We propose that additional language allow a party the right to sue an employer who is in violation of the protections outlined in the Erasure Statute.
I have attached proposed language to amend this bill accordingly to my written testimony. By including employers in this language, the legislature can completely recognize the employment rights of people with erased records. An employer must honor an applicant's rehabilitation. Senator Looney has recently introduced additional language regarding the standard of conduct to be used in looking at an employer and consumer reporting agency that's violated the statute and that standard is negligent and willful conduct. And that's also attached to my written testimony.
Finally, I'm also here in support of House Bill 5521, which would prohibit employers from utilizing credit reports as a basis for employment decisions. Employers currently have unfettered discretion to deny a job applicant employment because of their poor credit history. The use of credit reports has an adverse impact on poor people who have lower credit scores. However, a poor credit score is not indicative of a poor or unsatisfactory employee.
I ask that you support Senate Bill 733 and House Bill 5521, as it is strong public policy to foster the employment rights of individuals with erased records and poor credit histories. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much for your testimony.
Are there any questions from committee members? No. I don't see any so thank you for coming in.
ALEXIS HIGHSMITH: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: John Burton.
JOHN BURTON: Chairwoman Prague, Chairman Ryan and other members of the Labor Committee, my name is John Burton, and I'm here today on behalf of the company you may be familiar with LexisNexis. If you're not familiar with LexisNexis, we are an industry leader in providing identification and decision and capabilities to the legal business, government and law enforcement sectors. Including in the services that we provide is comprehensive background screening for employers. I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today. And I'm going to offer comment on two bills before you today. The first being Connecticut Senate Bill 733 and Connecticut House Bill 5521, both which deal with criminal records and general background screening.
Connecticut Senate Bill 733 seeks to impose civil liability on an entity described as a consumer reporting agency that discloses to an employer certain criminal records that have been erased pursuant to Connecticut law. Initially, it's important to note that under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and similar Connecticut law, consumer reporting agencies are subject to requirements and mandates for data accuracy and employment background screening reports. Additionally, consumers are likewise protected with access, dispute and correction mechanisms, as well as legal redress, to date. Currently, we oppose Connecticut Senate Bill 733 as drafted, because as drafted it imposes civil liability with no negligence or intent on behalf of the consumer reporting agency. The bill is further flawed because it appears based on the operational premise that criminal records are gathered by status rather than by the individual subject.
Currently, we collect data from numerous sources in Connecticut, including your judicial department, your department of corrections, and the individual court houses of Connecticut. We only collect data, which the agency provides, and have not control of the accuracy of the status of the data at the source. We can only report what we are given. Unless we are advised of the erased status by the government source, we have no way of knowing unless the data is later disputed down the line by the particular subject. Last year, the Connecticut legislature passed law requiring notification to us through the department -- excuse me -- through the judiciary department on certain pardon and expungement results of criminal records. Our industry and my company is currently complying with that Connecticut law. And, prior to this hearing, we've had conversations with some of the stakeholders concerning that law. We certainly have no prov -- no problems getting further data from any other state agencies in Connecticut that deal with erasures, expungements or pardons. But, however, this bill, as it exists today, does not address the core issue of getting this information to us. It only penalizes the results with no intent, negligence or other culpability on behalf of the consumer reporting agencies.
Our stock and trade, our sole competitive advantage is accuracy in data. We have just as much interest in providing accurate data to our customers, as the state has in making sure that we provide that accurate data. And we're will to work with the sponsor and the other stakeholders too close this loophole. But, currently, as drafted today, this bill does not close that loophole. It only penalizes users without any intent or negligence on their behalf. And so I will conclude my remarks on this particular bill, and I'm available for any questions on this issue.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members? I have a question. What's the name of your company?
JOHN BURTON: LexisNexis.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Do we have written testimony from you?
JOHN BURTON: You have written testimony on House Bill 5521, which I was going to take up next.
SENATOR PRAGUE: We have an issue before another committee that involves criminal background checks on people that they're thinking of employing. Those folks would go into the homes of elderly people who need some kind of help with their activities of daily living.
JOHN BURTON: Sure.
SENATOR PRAGUE: It's companies like yours, I think, that they're getting their comprehensive background checks from?
JOHN BURTON: We can provide those services, yes, if it's provided for under law.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. So it's critically important that you be accurate in the information that you give to these agencies.
JOHN BURTON: Exactly.
SENATOR PRAGUE: How often do you update you information? I mean, how often do you get updates from your sources of information?
JOHN BURTON: Anecdotally, here in Connecticut, our data sources are usually -- they can be updated up to the moment that a particular check is run in an individual courthouse. The data we receive from your particular state agencies, such as the Department of Corrections, the Judicial Department, are usually run either on a biweekly basis or certainly on a monthly basis.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So how is it that if you collect data that frequently, that you wouldn't have data on somebody who had received a pardon?
JOHN BURTON: It would all depend on whether or not the State was reporting up the chain as it was being reported down the chain. Because we're only as good as the data that the State is giving us, and if the State is giving us this data, we will adjust the records and correct whatever database needed to be corrected.
but I think the problem is outside the Judicial Department there is no mechanism within your state to provide these kind of updates of erasures or expungements for pardons. It only occurs -- currently today through the Judicial Department.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So I think I -- I think I hear you saying that our Board of --- our Board of Pardons & Paroles -- Parole & Pardons needs to notify the Judicial Department of recent pardon board decisions that certain people have been granted a pardon?
JOHN BURTON: I believe under existing Connecticut law that function is being done through the Judicial Department.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay.
JOHN BURTON: But as we're collecting data from individual courthouses, as well as your Department of Corrections, that mechanism may not be in place currently to cover that particular data.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Thank you.
There are other questions from committee members.
SENATOR GOMES: I would -- looking at your testimony here on 5521, your headquarters is in Georgia?
JOHN BURTON: I'm based in Georgia. LexisNexis is a wholly-owned company by --
SENATOR GOMES: I wouldn't have known that by your accent.
The information that you give to these companies, are there any parameters that you would require on the information -- let's say, for instance, some of the information that Senator Prague talked about about these people who work in people's homes. How would that help in your estimation if these people were health care people who work in the homes and doesn't cover anybody else that comes into that home. How extensible -- how would the information that you would give help these people out in your estimation?
JOHN BURTON: When you say, "help these people," are you talking about the sensitive populations, such as --
SENATOR GOMES: In other words, it only covers part of the people who would be -- that could be blamed for some incident or some incident that would happen in the home and other people entered into the home all the time themselves?
JOHN BURTON: That's correct and that would be up to the collective wisdom of the Connecticut legislature to determine what service providers that entered individuals home should be required to have background screening. That's a policy question that we can't answer but if that's mandated we certainly are there to provide the background screening services.
SENATOR GOMES: Is your company in service in all 50 states in the United States?
JOHN BURTON: Yes, sir.
SENATOR GOMES: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative O'Brien.
REP. O'BRIEN: Thank you.
Mechanically, how is it that you get the data from the state agencies, in particular, I guess, it would be the Department of Corrections.
JOHN BURTON: It's pursuant to contract. And usually it's an electronic data feed.
REP. O'BRIEN: So the -- the -- so the Department of Corrections, you purchased it as a service from the Department of Corrections?
JOHN BURTON: That's correct.
REP. O'BRIEN: And what do they do? They give you a regular run of data every so often; is that the way it works?
JOHN BURTON: That's correct. Like I said, it's usually on either a biweekly or a 30-day overlay.
REP. O'BRIEN: Is that the only information -- I mean, do you only report that form of information or do you actually go out more manually to get information?
JOHN BURTON: We do all of the above.
REP. O'BRIEN: Well, we have -- I mean, the Board of Pardons & Paroles is a public agency. I mean, and their decisions are public. You don't check those?
JOHN BURTON: Well, an interesting twist and I apologize I'm trying to reach back a couple years when we worked on a particular issue. My recollection was there was some impediment in Connecticut law the prohibited your Board of Pardon & Paroles to reporting that data to us. So we worked with Senator Looney, his staff and some of the other stakeholders to alleviate that hurdle. So now there is a mechanism at place at the Pardon & Paroles Board is reporting that data through Judicial. And, by Connecticut law, we're required to get that data through Judicial and update our systems.
REP. O'BRIEN: And the data's not updated.
JOHN BURTON: To the best of our knowledge, it is. But the question is, is whether of not that data is only updating Judicial Department data as opposed to any data that perhaps the Department of Corrections is providing. These are answers we just don't have because I'm not intimately familiar with the internal state mechanism for reporting this data out.
REP. O'BRIEN: So it's your contention that it is the State that's not providing you with accurate information.
JOHN BURTON: I believe that there's not a mechanism in place that we're readily getting -- apparently not getting all the pardon and parole data that exists in the state.
REP. O'BRIEN: Have you thought about going to the Board of Pardon & Parole yourself to check the public records that exist of their decisions?
JOHN BURTON: Well, after the work that we put in last two sessions, we thought that this issue had been resolved through the work that we had done and this data was being provided. So we're kind of at a little bit of a loss, and that's why we had a meeting with some of the stakeholders before this hearing. We're certainly glad to do it afterwards to try to close this loophole. It's not an issue we don't want the data. We just got to make sure we got a mechanism to get the data.
REP. O'BRIEN: I mean, it's the -- you have to understand, of course, the information that you provide effects peoples lives in some very direct and intimate ways. And it would seem to make sense that you should bear legal accountability for ensuring that that information you provide that effects so significantly should be accurate.
JOHN BURTON: And we don't dispute that, and we are under mandates both at the federal and state level to update that data to ensure the accuracy of the data. And if that data's not accurate to conduct a reinvestigation process, which we undertake on behalf of the aggrieved individual to investigate that data and check on its accuracy.
REP. O'BRIEN: I don't think I'm going off on a limb too much to say that I've heard from a lot, a lot of people who have expressed great frustration with trying to get information in your kind of agency corrected and recorded correctly.
JOHN BURTON: I can't, you know, comment on anecdotal evidence, but I can tell you if it's a LexisNexis issue, I'll be glad to take it back to Atlanta, Georgia, tomorrow and hand walk it through. And all I can tell you is that, you know, in today's -- under the federal law, consumer's have the most greatest access to their data that they've ever had. They can go online today and pull down the employment screen report that we would otherwise provide to an employer. There are -- we are one of the few companies that have an in-house consumer advocate that they can call the number and get an individual who will work with them on their behalf. I mean, we're doing everything that we can to ensure the accuracy of this data.
The one thing that I will tell you about that we do have problems with is that we can't correct data at the record source. Only the public record custodian can correct data at the public source. So we're only reporting what the public record source is giving us, and a lot of times there is a conflict there.
REP. O'BRIEN: Well, I -- I'm interested in hearing some of the other discussions that will take place behind the scenes on this issue, in particular. But, as a general principle, I think that -- I think that your company should bear responsibility for the accuracy of the data including the mechanism that's provided for under this proposal.
JOHN BURTON: And that's a responsibility that we very much undertake.
REP. O'BRIEN: Great, thank you.
SENATOR GOMES: I might have missed something. I was looking through some papers here, but I heard you mentioned data from a public source. What do you mean by a "public source?"
JOHN BURTON: Your courthouse, and it could be in your courthouse.
SENATOR GOMES: Oh, all right. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Representative Lambert.
REP. LAMBERT: Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Basically, you're acting like a middleman. So you feel that you're completely innocent because you have the individual that you're doing a background criminal check on and then you go to the judiciary and then you go also to the pardons. You're saying that the last time that there was a problem. So you do have the right now to go the pardons and see if this individual was pardoned.
JOHN BURTON: I -- again, I don't recall my recollection was that previously under Connecticut law, there was some restrictions that that data couldn't be released to a company like ours. It had to be facilitated through another source, and that was something that we worked on the last couple of years.
REP. LAMBERT: And you made a comment in the beginning of your testimony. You said that that would be up to the individual to correct. Now if you're an employer and you see that the person had a criminal background and do they always go up to that individual and say, this is your report that we received; is this accurate?
JOHN BURTON: Well, I think it's important to note from the outset, that all employment background screening is done with consumer consent. It's not something employers that are randomly running these reports on potential applicants or applicants without their knowledge. It's a consent-based mechanism that occurs at the consumer level.
REP. LAMBERT: Do they tell the employee that is going for the job that they didn't get hired because this is in your background?
JOHN BURTON: Oh, absolutely. If an adverse decision is reached, it's the employer's responsibility to inform the consumer why.
REP. LAMBERT: And then you, if it's your mistake, you take responsibility you said and you would do for the aggrieved person.
JOHN BURTON: Oh, absolutely. If the consumer disputes the data in the report, and it's our report, absolutely.
REP. LAMBERT: But you also say that you passed that on because you're the middleman and if our system is failing you pass the blame onto them.
JOHN BURTON: I think a couple statements I made may have been confused.
If the consumer's disputing an inaccuracy in the report, it's our responsibility under federal law to investigate that. And if it's found out that we made an error, then we will correct the -- we will correct the error and notify the employer. If -- if what we reported is exactly what is reflected in the record source, whether that's Department of Corrections or a particular courthouse, we will also communicate to that to the consumer. But if the record that exists at the source is incorrect, we, as the company, don't have the ability to change a public record. That is it can only be done by the public record custodian.
REP. LAMBERT: And you feel that that there's no monetary -- you had mentioned something about punishment that you feel that there shouldn't anything. So, in other words, if you -- if this individual's life was ruined, like Representative O'Brien said, what you basically do is say, I'm sorry, here's the corrected report because there's no punitive damages on you. Is that what you had said before, that you didn't expect to have anything on you.
JOHN BURTON: If we fail in our responsibilities to investigate and correct reports, yes, there's legal liability.
REP. LAMBERT: So, that they, the individual, would have to sue you.
JOHN BURTON: Sure. And, you know, I run (inaudible) report that they do.
REP. LAMBERT: Okay. How often does that happen?
JOHN BURTON: I have no, no knowledge of what litigation maybe pending against us.
REP. LAMBERT: Okay.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you, Representative Lambert.
Any other questions from committee members?
This is a national search, I take it. A comprehensive background check is a national search?
JOHN BURTON: We can -- we can perform a national search, or we can perform a jurisdictional search. It depends on what the customer requests.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay, but you have the capability of doing either?
JOHN BURTON: Yes.
SENATOR PRAGUE: What do you charge for a comprehensive background check?
JOHN BURTON: I don't know it depends on the customer. If you're talking about say a large big box employer who's running, you know, large numbers of employment screening, I'm sure that it's a different rate than a small employer who's maybe only running it, one or two. And another example, we're a large provider that service for nonprofits. So we provide those usually for free or greatly reduced rate to, like -- we're the national vendor for Little League Baseball of America. So, I mean, what we charge them is probably free or nominal. But, in the private sector, it probably would depend on the service they ask and the numbers they bringing to us.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Senator Gomes, did you have another question?
Thank you very much. We have your testimony on 5521, but I don't have any testimony on 733. Did you hand it in? Should our -- I mean, if you did, I'll look through the pile.
JOHN BURTON: I did not prepare any formal written testimony on Senate Bill 733.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay, okay. Thank you.
JOHN BURTON: And, Madam Chairwoman, I was also going to comment on Connecticut House Bill 5521, you had -- the committee has my written testimony before it. Anything I say would be redundant. Again, the only thing I would want to impress upon the committee is, again, even in this capacity, there's a consent-based mechanism. The individual is agreeing to this and has full knowledge of this. And if there any questions for me on this particular bill, I'll be glad to field them at this time.
SENATOR PRAGUE: All right. Senator Gomes has a question.
SENATOR GOMES: I noticed that you said that your company is LexisNexis.
JOHN BURTON: Yes, sir.
SENATOR GOMES: What is Reed Elsevier?
JOHN BURTON: They're the parent company.
SENATOR GOMES: They're the parent company to LexisNexis.
JOHN BURTON: Yes, sir.
SENATOR GOMES: And where are they located?
JOHN BURTON: They are a international company, based in the -- it's a Dutch UK company.
SENATOR GOMES: International?
JOHN BURTON: Yes, sir. But LexisNexis is based in Dayton, Ohio.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You know, I just said to our LCO attorney, I wonder if they employ any Connecticut residents. And he said, yes, they do because you are the source of information for the legislature. Are you? I'm sure you're aware of that?
JOHN BURTON: Sure
SENATOR PRAGUE: So you have a contract with the Connecticut legislature to provide -- what kind of services?
JOHN BURTON: It's -- it's probably legal or legislative services.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Say that again. What kind of services?
JOHN BURTON: I suspect it's our traditional legal and legislative search services.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Uh-huh.
JOHN BURTON: That provides access to state codes and legislative activity.
SENATOR PRAGUE: It's very interesting. We hire a company from Georgia, an international company from -- you're based in Georgia to do our Connecticut research?
JOHN BURTON: Well, it's a little complicated. LexisNexis is based in Dayton, Ohio.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Do you have a presence here in Connecticut by any chance?
JOHN BURTON: I'm relatively new to the company. So I don't have that information in front of me but I can certainly --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay, thank you. Thank you very much.
Next person to testify is Brian Phelps, followed by Dave Rotigliano.
REP. RYAN: Good afternoon. Whenever you're ready.
BRIAN PHELPS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Chairwoman, senators, representatives and friends. My name is Brian Phelps, and I'm the president and owner of Toad's Place in New Haven.
I'm here to speak in favor of House Bill 6460, the bill that helps to establish parody and fairness for the servers and bars and restaurants in the 21st century.
For far too many years, tip credit allocation has put heavier toll on the wait staff. During the 1940's this may have been true, but, in 2009, the bartenders are the group, in most situations, that make the lion's share of the tips. This bill would help to redefine the laws and regs that were put into place more than 70 years ago, when things in Connecticut were vastly different. So I urge you to vote in favor of House Bill 6460. That's all I have to say.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members?
Thank you very much.
BRIAN PHELPS: Thank you.
REP. RYAN: Rotigliano.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I'm sorry.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: That's okay. Hello, my name is Dave Rotigliano. I am the executive chef and owner of the SBC Restaurant Group. We have locations in Stamford, Milford, Hamden, and Branford. We employ over 300 people in the State of Connecticut.
I am speaking in favor today of Senate Bill 222, which would freeze the minimum wage for servers, and also House Bill 6460, which would reclassify bartenders as servers and redefine the side work issue.
Also, we, at SBC, strongly oppose House Bill 6187. Mandating paid sick leave would put an onerous amount of expense on small business and will definitely result in a loss of jobs in Connecticut.
Restaurants, specifically restaurants, operate differently than a normal business. We're in a right here, right now business. So if one employee calls in sick, I have to call in somebody else to perform the duties. So then I end up paying the person that's out and I also have to pay the person that came in to cover for them. And, usually, that's at overtime. This will result in more expense to my business that I can't pass along to the consumer and that would cost us jobs.
The restaurant business is inherently flexible. People who are sick, they call, they switch with the next person. If they can't come in Tuesday, they'll switch with the person working Thursday, and vice versa.
That's really all I have to say.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Senator Gomes has a question.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Feel free.
SENATOR GOMES: Did I hear you just say that you correct your problem with somebody being sick by having them switch -- switch places.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: That's how we do it, absolutely.
SENATOR GOMES: You said that if a person is sick, you have to call in somebody to -- in order to replace them.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: That's right
SENATOR GOMES: In other words, you don't replace anybody that's sick unless they switch.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Well, no. If they can't do it, then the manager would assume their position or we would -- or -- nine out of ten times, we will find somebody. There is always somebody out there that's looking for extra hours, more time and so it always works out.
SENATOR GOMES: Therefore, you would -- therefore, if you replace this person, you would still have to -- there would be some cost to you anyhow?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Yes.
SENATOR GOMES: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any other questions from committee members?
Do you let your employees come in when they're sick?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: No, in fact, our employees at SBC have to sign a form when they first get hired that if they are sick or if they have any communicable disease, they have to call in sick or they have to make us aware of it. It's part of the serve safe for the sanitation class that -- and the food operator training class that we give to all our new employees.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. So, if somebody is sick, they have to make you aware of it --
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: That's right.
SENATOR PRAGUE: -- which is also part of the bill. For paid sick time, you have call in your employer and make the employer aware that you're sick and that you can't come in.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Right.
SENATOR PRAGUE: The difference between your operation and the bill is that the employee would have paid sick days, six sick days a year.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Right. But how I differ from a traditional work environment. Where if you have an office and an employee calls in sick, they get paid for the time. They come in the next day, maybe the stack of paperwork got a little higher.
In the restaurant business, I am immediately serving food or preparing food, a perishable product. I have to bring somebody in to perform those duties. I must open that evening. So I have to pay the person that's not at work, bring in somebody pay them also, usually at time and a half because their going to go over their 40-hour mark. That's where it becomes expensive, especially in the restaurant business.
And, for the most part, servers make the majority of their wage through tips. They want to be at work. So they naturally switch. We have this natural flexibility built into the restaurant business, where if somebody can't work Tuesday, I'll switch with you Thursday. It happens all the time.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Okay. I hope I explained it. I know we met before about it. We are definitely -- we operate differently than a normal business. If I -- if it's a Saturday night and I have two cooks call in sick, I either have to get somebody to perform that job or I have to not be there. I have to not open. I don't have anyway to facilitate my customers. So that's where the double expense for restaurants comes in.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Senator Gomes has a question.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Yes, ma'am.
SENATOR GOMES: A little while ago, you said you also want to classify bartenders as servers. What does that mean?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: What happens is is bartenders and wait staff, in our opinion, perform the same function. They serve customers food and drink. But under Connecticut state law, which is an old archaic law, where it has to do with counter help, the bartenders stand behind the counter. So they classify bartenders -- they have a lower tip credit than a server but yet they typically make more money than a server and, essentially, are doing the same job.
SENATOR GOMES: But one serves food and one serves liquor.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Most bartenders serve both and most servers serve both. Servers bring drinks and food to the table, and bartenders serve alcohol and food over the bar. It's, essentially, the same function. It's not only a cost savings to the restaurant to reclassify them as far as wage goes because there's a lot more servers than there are bartenders typically. It's an accounting thing, the payroll. People punching in having different classifications of work job. You know, what were you today? What were you tonight? Oh, I served on the -- in the dining room this morning, but I'm a bartender tonight. So, typically, they'd have to punch out, punch back in. We run multiple payrolls with multiple classifications.
SENATOR GOMES: You don't only want to reclassify them, you want to have them not to have a classification.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: I want them to be classified all the same, as servers, essentially, what they're doing.
SENATOR GOMES: What about the cooks and the bartenders?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Well, cooks are different. They're not tipped. They get paid a negotiated rate, you know, either hourly or salary.
SENATOR GOMES: I'm sorry
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: But, in Connecticut -- I'm glad that you brought that up -- because, in Connecticut, we pay our servers more than any state in the east. You have to go in Nevada to find a server wage higher than Connecticut. Our servers, in SBC, make between $20 and $30 an hour, claimed reported taxable income.
The one's that get really hurt the most every time the minimum wage goes up and, thus, this server wage goes up, are the cooks in the back. They're the ones that the money's not left for to give them raises. And, this year, the minimum wage went up in January 1st. SBC, we eliminated 30 jobs basically based on the minimum wage increase. It was busboys, you know, the server staff that comes and cleans the tables and does everything like that. Well, they make full minimum wage. There has to be an affordability aspect. I have to remain profitable and be able to pay my bills and pay my workers, and there's like a constant increase.
SENATOR GOMES: And the others ones that work they're busboys, and so on, and so forth, they don't get any tips?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Well, they get tips, but they get tips indirectly. They're not classified presently by the Labor Department as a tipped employee. That bill also seeks to reclassify them as a tipped employee because they do receive tips.
SENATOR GOMES: A little while ago you said something about cooks -- the cooks get really injured on raise-wise because there's no money left for them to get a raise. What did you mean by that?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Well, when the state mandates that I increase server wages every year, through the increase in the minimum wage, the money has to come from somewhere. There is only so much price increases that I can take and pass along to the consumer. There comes a point where they're not going to pay $15 for a hamburger. So, who suffers is the back of the house staff, the dishwashers, the cooks, the managers. When that pool of money that we're bringing in isn't has to keep going to the servers through minimum wage increases, when it comes time for the cook who asked for raise, you know, what are you going to do? I say there's no money.
You know business isn't good. The economy is terrible. I mean, what are going to do?
SENATOR GOMES: But they all contribute. They all contribute.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: And they get paid, right. I would love them to give them a raise, absolutely. But the state --
SENATOR GOMES: You really sound like it.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: -- the state -- I do. I absolutely would love to give the cooks a raise. They do a lot of work, and it's a tough job. I'm a chef myself. The State is the one that continually gives servers and bartenders raises. The ones that need it the least, they're the tipped employee. They claim between $20 and $30 an hour in my company. And the cooks in the back, you know, the state -- they're already well above minimum wage, and they're not going any higher.
SENATOR GOMES: How many restaurants do you have?
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: We have five.
SENATOR GOMES: 300 employees.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Right now we have 300 employees. We started in 1997. We're all Connecticut guys. We were born and raised here, and we opened up a Connecticut company. We've been lucky enough to expand all these years.
SENATOR GOMES: Still count yourself as small business.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Yeah, I do count myself as small business. When you walk into the -- one of the SBCs. I'm either standing there, or one of my partners is standing there. We're not some big anonymous corporation with offices somewhere. We're right here. My main office is in Shelton. My first location was in Fairfield. I'm in the restaurant everyday saying hi, either cooking or talking to customers. I'm pretty small.
SENATOR GOMES: We appreciate that and thank Connecticut business. Thank you.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: All right.
REP. RYAN: Thank you.
Anybody else have any questions for Mr. Rotigliano? Thank you, sir.
DAVE ROTIGLIANO: Thank you.
REP. RYAN: Next we have Eric Rosenberg, and after him will be Lori Pelletier.
ERIC ROSENBERG: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Eric Rosenberg with TransUnion. TransUnion is a global leader is credit and information management. We're one of the three global consumer credit reporting agencies.
The security and accuracy of our information is our highest priority in everything we do, including mortgage reporting, fraud prevention, risk management, employment reporting, tenant screening and collection services.
I stand here in opposition to -- let's see, House Bill 5521, which would prohibit an employer from obtaining a consumer credit report for employment purposes unless the information is substantially job related.
Our key issue is because there is no definition surrounding this bill of what is substantially job related. The net effect of this would be to substantially stop employment screening in the state of Connecticut. We think that this restriction could severely jeopardize the health and safety of many Connecticut residents who have come to rely upon safe and secure environments and risk the financial status of businesses across the state.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where businesses of all shapes and sizes must verify the backgrounds of job applicants because retail losses due to employee theft are estimated at over $30 billion annually and more than 30 percent of all job applicants provide false information on their resumes that needs to be verified. If enacted, HB 5521 could prevent background checks on a variety of workers that require access to their homes, hotel rooms, and businesses where personal safety and property are so clearly at risk, including phone and cable television workers, who come into consumers' homes, hotel staff, office technology personnel, and more. The bill could also prohibit background checks on baby sitters, au pairs, and food delivery personnel.
We understand and recognize the personal privacy and the accuracy of information and records is very important and support laws to protect consumers. In fact, as you heard earlier from the gentleman from LexisNexis, the Federal Affair Credit Reporting Act provides many protections and standards for the use of consumer or credit reports used for employment purposes in certain instances. And, in general, an employer can only obtain a consumer credit report if the applicant consents to that in writing.
The screening of backgrounds, once again, of employees, is critical to protect the safety of Connecticut residents in their homes and offices, in their cars, and in all other places they travel.
We would urge HB 5521 not to be considered because it could put consumers at risk with little other protections for those the bill might theoretically protect. And now I stand open for questions.
REP. RYAN: Do you have any questions for Mr. Rosenberg?
REP. O'BRIEN: Thank you. You talked a lot in your testimony about the retail losses and violent workplace victimizations and the -- you talked a lot about safety in your oral testimony, but as I read the proposal for 5521, it talks about the consumer credit reports. And it's pretty clear referring to the creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity and, in general, talking about the consumer credit. It's pretty clear that this is driving at the consumer credit of the perspective employee not any -- not criminal background checks and things like that. I mean, how does that square with your testimony?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, there's a lot of confusion between consumer reports and credit reports, for example, that I used for background screening for employment purposes. In general, we're worried that this would sweep in all consumer reports that are used for employment purposes, which include criminal background checks, credit history checks, and the like. So all of those are paramount for businesses who want to screen for the safety and soundness of their employees.
REP. O'BRIEN: If this were -- are you saying this should be clarified to -- to clarify what a consumer report is for the purposes of this proposal?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, if it goes down that road that should be clarified and also like you said the definition of what is substantially job related. In our estimation, in working in the State of Washington -- it was referenced before -- it's very hard to know because of the civil liabilities what -- how business would define what is substantially job related when they're pulling a credit report. That could be open to interpretation. So you want to be as clear as possible what that exactly means to cut down on any potential legal ramifications.
REP. O'BRIEN: But knowing that this is specifically directed at the consumer -- the reporting that's done on -- on the buying and paying of bills by consumers.
ERIC ROSENBERG: If you're just talking about a consumer credit report, then you can talk about retail losses to theft and providing false information on their resumes. The things that might pertain to an employee -- an employer understanding a full picture of if a consumer has a bankruptcy or a lien or a judgment or other financial stress. For example, if they have hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that might pertain -- might put them under stress to steal or to influence others to and put them in a position to steal. Those are very real opportunities and realities in today's life.
REP. O'BRIEN: And is it your position that those that type of information should be used by all perspective employers?
ERIC ROSENBERG: I wouldn't say "by all." I'd say the credit reporting system is completely voluntary. So you have the option as an employer to participate. It means you can pull that information and, if you do, then you have to oblige by the law. And you have to -- you have to meet all the standards under the Fair -- Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The -- and the State Credit Reporting Act, as well, which means as the representative from LexisNexis talked about, you have to provide recourse, which means you have to provide a mechanism for consumer to dispute that information if there's an inaccuracy. And we have to do a reinvestigation within 30 days and if we don't -- and remove that information if it's found that it is inaccurate.
REP. O'BRIEN: What types of jobs do you think would be clear -- would be squarely within the types of jobs where -- where that kind of report would be appropriate?
ERIC ROSENBERG: I only know that what I see from our customers, for example, are banks, mortgage companies. We have state police, a lot of others, you know, daycare centers. That's sort of information. Folks who handle money. There's a variety of individuals who -- who get stressed because of their credit situation and they take that out in other ways in their life. So, you know, I can't limit it, but it's, you know, goes beyond just financial institutions.
REP. O'BRIEN: Can you see how they -- as a practice it would tend to have a discriminatory effect upon people who's lives have already been people have already been poor?
ERIC ROSENBERG: No, I don't see that at all.
REP. O'BRIEN: Why?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Why?
REP. O'BRIEN: Yeah.
ERIC ROSENBERG: Because it's our -- it's our experience that folks who have lower incomes, who are poor, actually tend to have better credit than individuals who have higher -- who and this is the pure reason. People at all income levels pay their -- tend to pay their bills, make sacrifices, and some live paycheck to paycheck at high income levels and at low income levels.
REP. O'BRIEN: You have that empirically that you can provide?
ERIC ROSENBERG: We have that empirically, as a matter of fact from the -- at least two studies have shown that people at lower income levels, actually, have -- have a tendency to have higher credit scores. This is done by the Federal Housing Authority and at least one independent study. Now, credit scores aren't used in employment decisions so let's get that straight. And, you know, the -- so I want to get that off the plate.
REP. O'BRIEN: But the -- so but -- but -- you're saying -- you mentioned credit scores but --
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, a score's just a snapshot of a credit report. So if your credit report -- if you have a decent credit report, you're going to have a decent score. But that's not necessarily used in -- that's not used in an employment decision.
REP. O'BRIEN: But the -- but there is -- so you're saying but it's not -- there is a linkage, though, between the -- that -- that would be useful for -- by an income-strata basis being able identify the impact that this would have on employment decisions?
ERIC ROSENBERG: I haven't seen any studies such as that, that it would have an impact on decisions.
REP. O'BRIEN: Because that's what really speaks to the public policy question we have before us right now.
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, I haven't seen -- I -- I -- you know, I couldn't answer that. I haven't seen any studies that show that somebody's income level, which is not included in a credit report, by the way, or their credit standing necessarily corresponds to the treatment they get in a hiring decision.
TransUnion, we provide objective credit information. So we're not involved in the hiring decisions. We don't make those make decisions for -- for employers. But we, you know, strive to provide accurate information that. That is updated two billion times a month and by 85,000 data sources.
REP. O'BRIEN: Thank you.
REP. RYAN: Senator Gomes.
SENATOR GOMES: You said that -- just now you said that the credit scoring does not apply to hiring decisions?
ERIC ROSENBERG: That is correct. Credit scores are not used in employment decisions.
SENATOR GOMES: Then why are they required by employers?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, that's -- there's a difference between a credit report. The credit report is the bulk of information your -- which would contain your -- your indicative information, your name, your address, your social security number, your date of birth, your employer. It would include your trade lines which include your -- the accounts, your CitiBank account or your Chase account. It would include your public records, any statements that you might have and any public records, I think I might have said that.
SENATOR GOMES: And you supply all of that?
ERIC ROSENBERG: And we -- when we provide that to -- to an employer who then will analyze that and make the appropriate decision. So we don't make the decision, like I said.
SENATOR GOMES: You don't think that an employer requires this information from you to -- to influence his decision to hire somebody?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, that's why they -- that's exactly why they would use the information to influence their decision to provide an appropriate level of risk management. So they have to do less hedging in the hiring of a potential of employee.
SENATOR GOMES: And you said, let's discount the lower income people but just, say, middle income people who don't have good credit. You said that -- maybe I missed it but if this could be conducive to the thought of stealing or being a thief? In other words --
ERIC ROSENBERG: -- I'm saying -- I'm saying they're -- what I'm saying is that there could be instances of consumers who might be stressed out because they have -- or who have bankruptcies, liens, judgments. It's our experience working with law enforcement, the Social Security Administration, the US Postal Service, that some individuals who have stressed-out credit, who have bankruptcies, judgments, liens, high credit, available credit could have had better -- more pressure to thieve.
SENATOR GOMES: Now, we're --
ERIC ROSENBERG: I'm not saying all of them do. I'm just saying that could be an instance.
SENATOR GOMES: -- Now we're getting where I want to go. Now we're talking about what are the percentages that -- you said "instances." What are the percentages of this happening?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Of workplace theft?
SENATOR GOMES: Of workplace theft based on what you're talking about credit, bad credit?
ERIC ROSENBERG: I don't have -- I don't have statistics on the number of individuals who, you know, who do thieve, but I do have numbers, for example, as I mentioned retail losses are very high at about $30 billion annually. That's from employee theft. And that a lot of people do provide false information on their resumes. So the credit report is an important tool in which to verify that information as well.
SENATOR GOMES: But employees -- somebody seeking information, I mean, seeking employment may give a lot of false information, not based on their credit.
ERIC ROSENBERG: That is correct.
SENATOR GOMES: That would also lend to this theory about them being under pressure to become a thief or something?
ERIC ROSENBERG: I can't speculate on that, you know, I'm --
SENATOR GOMES: You have speculated already when you --
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, I have -- but that's beyond a credit report. I can't, you know, what I can say is the application of the credit report for employment purposes.
SENATOR GOMES: We're not trying to be confrontational --
ERIC ROSENBERG: Right, I understand.
SENATOR GOMES: But these are the sort things that we need to know in order to vote on these bills that we're -- that are before us. And information such as you were giving and then you say "instances," which might be -- instances might be one out of 100, without any percentages that you can talk about, that's -- that's -- that's not credible information for us.
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, I'd be happy to provide you more in-depth information when I get back to Chicago and back to my offices. I do have some numbers, as I shared about, you know, the demonstrable evidence about the enormity of retail theft by employees, but I don't have the instance of percentages right offhand.
SENATOR GOMES: Based on many things other than credit reports?
ERIC ROSENBERG: Well, what I was saying, those credit reports help to tell a story to an employer. All right. That's what it does.
SENATOR GOMES: All the information that you would supply us would be based on credit reports.
ERIC GOMES: That's right. We're a -- we're a consumer credit reporting agency. So the information that we provide to employers is credit-based information that's used to help employers judge risk of a potential employee.
SENATOR GOMES: Thank you. I hope you would provide that information.
ERIC ROSENBERG: I will do some research, sir.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. Are there any other questions from committee members? No, thank you very much.
ERIC ROSENBERG: Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You're welcome.
Okay. Next person in Lori Pelletier, followed by -- is it Ole Hermanson? And then Paul Rapanault.
LORI PELLETIER: Good evening, Senator Prague and Representative Ryan and the Members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Lori Pelletier, and I serve as the secretary/treasure of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, which has over 900 affiliated local unions representing working men and women who are all of your constituents.
I would like to start off by testifying against Senate Bill 222 and House Bill 6460. This idea of a tip credit seems to us that it's nothing more than an unfair tax on people who happen to wait or bartend. You know, as we look at the issues facing us here in the state, maybe we should think about a tip credit on incomes over $150,000 or maybe a tip credit on capital gain income or maybe better yet we should not call licenses and fee increases just call them tip credits.
I have submitted written testimony so I'm not going read all that because the hour is late and there are many other people after me that need to testify.
But I would like to talk about particularly Senate Bill 365, an act concerning captive audience meetings that we strongly support. Two years ago this bill was raised in the Judiciary Committee, and I have attached to my testimony, Attorney General Dick Blumenthal's testimony in support of the same bill from two years ago. Today, businesses spend approximately $8 billion a year fighting organizing drives against unions. And we're finding more and more prevalence of employers utilizing these captives audience meetings to tell their employees, you know, what -- what person to vote for, or how to -- they should pray. So our concerns are that if they want to hold these meetings, that's fine, but that an employee should be able to get up, walk out, and return to work without retribution because it does happen. That these meetings -- in 92 percent of the time when there is a union organizing drive, the employer employs this tactic.
We always appreciate the public -- the Labor and Public Employees Committee holding these public hearings, and if anybody has any questions, I'd be glad to answer at this time.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Are there any questions from committee members? No. You're off the hook.
LORI PELLETIER: Thanks, Senator.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
OLE HERMANSON: Good evening. My name is Ole Hermanson, I'm an organizer. I help workers form their unions. I'm here to testify in support of Senate Bill 365, an act concerning captive audience meetings.
In my six years at AFT Connecticut, I've worked on many organizing campaigns, most of them have been at nonprofit organizations, mostly hospitals. I've never worked a campaign in the last six years where the employer did not use an anti-union campaign that included captive audience meetings. Management uses these meetings to coerce and intimidate workers.
In the organizing drive that is going on right now at Rockville General Hospital, management held a captive audience meeting in the emergency department. The manager singled out one nurse and said, if Michelle here asks you to sign a union card, she isn't your friend. And if she's pressure you, you have the right to say no to her and tell me about it. Michelle asked why she was being singled out and the manager said, well, you went to a union meeting, didn't you?
Michelle has since stopped coming to union meetings or from taking calls from organizers. And she has told her co-workers that she's afraid if she does anything to support organizing that she will lose her job.
Captive audience meetings are a powerful tool that management uses to pressure people not to exercise their legal right to make their own decisions about joining the union and they should be stopped. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
Are there any questions from committee members? No. Seeing none, thank you.
Paul Rapanault, followed by Jim Vigue. Where's Paul? And then Jessica Fenner.
JIM VIGUE: Good afternoon Senator Prague, Representative Ryan, and members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Jim Vigue, and I am the political director for Connecticut Employees Union Independent, SEIU Local 511, which represents approximately 4,500 state employees in the maintenance and services bargaining unit.
I'm here today to testify in favor of Senate Bill 365 and House Bill 6187. Both of these bills would be a huge step forward for the working people in the state of Connecticut. I will address each bill separately for convenience of discussion.
Senate Bill 365, entitled "An Act Concerning Captive Audience Meetings" is legislation which CEUI, as well as the entire labor movement, wholeheartedly stands behind. Too many workers in this state, as well as throughout the country, are forced to attend meetings at their workplace where employers are pushing their own religious or political beliefs onto their workers under the guise of what is termed "a business meeting." This bill would give workers' in the state of Connecticut the right to opt out of these phony business meetings.
Opponents of this bill make claim that's such a bill would infringe on an employer's right to conduct and hold necessary business meetings, however, do not be fooled. This proposed legislation does not inhibit an employer's ability to conduct legitimate business related meetings nor does it serve as a complete bar on holding mandatory business meetings.
What this legislation does do is to protect workers from being forced to attend workplace meetings that are solely designed to scare, intimidate and harass workers. One's religious preferences, as well their particular political views, are personal matters, as such, an employer should have no right to impose its religious or political views on its employees, nor should employees fear reprisal if they do not conform to such. Therefore, I stand in strong support of this legislation and hope to see it enacted this legislative session.
In addition to Senate Bill 365, I would also like to take a moment to speak in favor of House Bill 6187, entitled "An Act Mandating Employers to Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees." As a representative of state employees, who currently earn sick leave days, I stand today in support of all other workers in Connecticut who deserve and need this same benefit in order to effectively provide for their families. This legislation is designed to promote the health and well-being of Connecticut's workforce.
This bill provides a benefit desperately needed by some of our most vulnerable citizens, lower-wage workers that live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to take a day off without pay. No employee should have to risk their health or those of their co-workers to go to work when they are ill. Not only does this increase their chance that they will remain ill longer but they also risk infecting their co-workers which inevitably effects the work product of businesses.
While opponents of this bill contend that paid sick days will place an undue burden on small businesses, I respectively disagree. First, this will be earned time accrued by the employees based on how long they worked for a business. Therefore, an employer will only be subject for payment up to the amount of sick time accrued by an employee.
Further, this bill would create a more stable, healthy, and productive workforce by promoting an employee's health over fear of a missed paycheck, as such, this is a benefit not only to the employees but also to the employers. The time has come to right the wrongs that have been done for too long to working people of Connecticut. This legislation would help put and end to the barbaric and inhumane treatment of our working class and give them some added piece of mind that they will be able to provide for their families. Thank you for your time and consideration. Ask me anything (inaudible.)
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
Any questions? Seeing none, you can go home and have dinner.
JESSICA FENNER: Senator Prague, Representative Ryan and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony on behalf of the Permanent Commission on Status of Women Young Women's Leadership Program. The YWLP is dedicated to understanding and voicing the needs of Connecticut's young women, ages 18 to 35. Today, I speak in favor of Senate Bill 362, at it addresses a number of these issues.
As a graduate student at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, this issue of equal pay for equal work will have a direct impact on my future career in the social service realm. The wage project estimates that over a life time, or 47 years of full-time work, the wage gap amounts to a loss in wages for a woman of 700,000 for a high school graduate; 1.2 million for a college graduate; and 2 million for a professional school graduate, meaning that I will be disproportionately penalized for furthering my education and being a woman.
On behalf of young women across the state, I urge you to pass Senate Bill 362, which will hold employers accountable to explain wage disparities based on a bona fide factor other than sex.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, the wage gap has been closing at a very slow rate. In 1963, women who worked full-time year round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2007, women are at 78 cents to a man's dollar. That means that the wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year.
In short, women and their families stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of work in our country. Senate Bill 362 will provide the general assembly an opportunity to help make measurable gains inclosing the wage gap.
The PCSW and the YWLP appreciate the Labor commitment to Connecticut's young women and look forward to working with the committee to address this and related issues in the future. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much for coming in.
JESSICA FENNER: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members? Seeing none, thank you. Keep up the good work.
MANDI JACKSON: Good evening, members of the committee. My name is Mandi Jackson. I'm a research analyst for UNITE HERE, which represents nearly a half of million workers in the hospitality and textile industries nationwide, as well as thousands of employees in hotels and food service throughout Connecticut and at Yale University.
I wanted to first address something that the gentleman from TransUnion brought up earlier. It is not true that poor people tend to have better credit scores than more affluent people, and we can actually provide that data. I'll submit it to the committee later.
As a union that is deeply committed to a equality in hiring, we strongly support House Bill 5521, which would restrict the use of credit reports in the hiring process. As we face the worst economic crisis of our generation, now is precisely the time for representatives to act to ensure that job opportunity is based on equality and not on credit history. We feel that credit reports should be banned from the hiring process for four main reasons.
First and foremost, the use of credit in hiring discriminates against African American and Latino job applicants. The average credit score of African Americans is roughly 10 percent to 25 percent lower than that of whites. Those numbers for Latino applicants are roughly 5 to 25 percent lower. This is according to a 2004 study by the Texas Department of Insurance.
The foreclosure crisis is exacerbating this problem since African Americans and Latino home loan borrowers are more than twice as likely to receive high cost home loans in 2006. This is according to a 2007 study by ACORN. A foreclosure can drop a person's credit score by 250 points and that will remain on their credit history for seven years.
Second, credit checks in hiring create a fundamental catch-22 for job applicants. In other words, I'm behind on my bills so I can't --
SENATOR PRAGUE: You know, Mandi, we're going to ask you to see if you could sum up simply because it's getting so late and we have two more pages.
MANDI JACKSON: Sure, I'll just summarize --
SENATOR PRAGUE: I know that you've being here waiting to testify, so --
MANDI JACKSON: Indeed. So the credit checks create a catch-22. I'm behind on my bills because I lost my job; I can't get a job, because I'm behind on my bills.
I also want to address what a previous -- the gentleman from LexisNexis and from TransUnion suggested that these are consent-based practices. And we take issue with the idea that it's consent-based because if you want to get a job you have to consent to having that checked.
Third, there's an accuracy problem with credit reports. A recent study reported that 37 percent of those whose credits were checked found that there was an inaccuracy and most could not easily resolve those inaccuracies.
And, fourth, that these, these reports were designed by companies, such as TransUnion, to predict whether a consumer could pay her bills on time, not whether she would perform her job duties accurately.
I, just to close, would like say that -- that TransUnion is one of the top three companies that sell credit reports. It recently settled a class action with the largest class in US history, which alleged that the company sold private information to targeted marketing companies without a permissible purpose and thus violated the Federal Affair Credit Reporting Act and so that's also of a concern to us.
I guess just to want to say that this is -- this economic situation is the right time to take this kind of action. Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Do we have a copy of your testimony?
MANDI JACKSON: You do, yes. And there's more data included on that testimony.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay, okay. Thank you.
MANDI JACKSON: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members?
Representative O'Brien has a question.
REP. O'BRIEN: So your saying not just the digging into the credit reports themselves but there is a correlation, a negative correlation, between income and -- or a positive correlation between income and how bad your credit score is?
MANDI JACKSON: Yes, there is, and we can get that data to you.
REP. O'BRIEN: And they've seemed to have left also the racially discriminatory impact of that as well?
MANDI JACKSON: Yes, and that's one of our key issues with this -- with this -- with this process is that it is racially discriminatory.
REP. O'BRIEN: Great, thank you.
MANDI JACKSON: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you. So Mark -- is it Drubek? Followed by -- I'm not sure -- what is this?
All right. You go first and then we'll call the next person.
MARK DZIUBEK: All right. I'd like to thank all the committee members --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
MARK DZIUBEK: First of all for hanging with me into this late hour to give me an opportunity to testify. I'm here to speak in favor of House Bill 6187. My name is Mark Dziubek, I'm a factory worker. It's a union factory. I'm the vice president of my local there, 712. I'm also the vice president of the CAP Council here in Connecticut for the UAW. My local is an amalgamated union that means it's made up of two or more plants, Wallace Barnes plant and the Theis Precision Steel Plant in Bristol.
My plant has sick days. They give me four per year, but I can only use one per quarter. If I get sick that means I have to get better by the next day and go to work sick. I could call in, but that's not an option for me with mortgage payments, taxes, bills, phone bills, car insurance, and everything going up and my wages have been stagnant for years so I go to work.
I'm also a family man. I have kids. Having children also means they get sick and they can't go to school so it means lost time. Someone has to stay home. But if I missed too much time, I could be fired. Not all companies are understanding. I think the state standard is you can only miss one day per year or it's considered excessive. So, without a collective bargain agreement, you can only miss one day a year so don't you or your kids get sick. But I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, I have paid sick days.
My sister plant, Wallace Barnes was forced to give up their paid days in 2004. They had a choice to either take pay cuts or give up benefits. They gave up the benefits. Even though the costs of a few sick days a year is substantially less than the cuts in pay they were being threatened with. So sick or not, they have to go to work.
But if we look at the bigger picture here, I'll sum it up quick, employees go to work sick everyday. And, some of them, it isn't an option because they're at lower end of the pay scale.
So I heard some people before they talked, you know, that these service employees that handle our food, retail workers, health care workers, you know, $20 or $30 an hour, I mean. If you looked at the W2s, I don't think they're making 40 or 50,000 dollars a year.
So, in times like this, people look to our elected officials to do what's right and a few paid sick days greatly outweighs the harm it would do having these people go to work sick, spreading their germs, infecting others. You know, and I ask you to support House Bill 6187.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members?
I have a question. Here you are vice president of the CAP Council of UAW, were you part of the negotiations that negotiated --
MARK DZIUBEK: -- No, negotiations at a plant is done by the bargaining committee elected at a plant. It has nothing to do at a regional level. No, I was not.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So you get one day a quarter --
MARK DZIUBEK: One day a quarter
SENATOR PRAGUE: That's unbelievable.
MARK DZIUBEK: Well, that's -- well, at least I get them, you know. I mean, these -- these people that I didn't know, barmaids and servers made 40 or 50,000 dollars a year, you know, so maybe they can take a day off. They're the ones that really need this law, you know, because they're usually part-time workers. You know, they're not -- maybe they work four hours a night on a shift, you know, like the other gentleman was talking about who pays them $20 to $30 an hour but their not full-time employees, with no benefits probably.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Good God. Well, thank you for coming in to testify.
MARK DZIUBEK: Sure.
NORMA FRANCESCI: Yes, good evening. My name is Norma Francesci, and I coming to testify strongly support to the House Bill 6187.
I own for the last 24 year a small business, a grocery store deli in New Haven. And we are six people working in there for employer, my husband and myself, and I provide sick pay to my employees because I think it's very necessary.
First, because we deal with food, and I can understand somebody who is sick, coughing and sniffing with the food. It spread all the germ to our customer. So we need to be glad for our customer and provide the sick day to the employee.
Today, one of my employee came to work and he was coughing and coughing, and I sent him home because it's not right. We spread all the germs to the children and to the people and, especially, the food when you serve food. That's it.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. What a good employer you are, Norma
NORMA FRANCESCI: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I want to clap for you, too.
Any questions from committee members? Thank you very much.
NORMA FRANCESCI: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: So Frank Sumpter you're next.
FRANK SUMPTER: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and members of the committee. My name is Frank Sumpter, and I'm the executive director of the YMCA in Middletown, Connecticut. And we're a large employer in Middletown, and we employee a lot of part-time employees.
But, first, let me tell you about my full-time workforce. I do have 64 of my 290 employees are full-time, and we care about their health and well-being. And we, in fact, have a threshold of 27 and a half hours per week to be eligible for our full-time benefit package that includes not only sick time but health and dental insurance.
Our opposition to House Bill 6187 is its part-time provisions. Presently, over 250 young people work for us in part-time capacities, lifeguards, recreation leaders, front desk employees, and the like, and these folks work intermittent schedules. Their work patterns are affected by their school, and social activities, sport teams, things of that nature. And, to extend sick leave provisions to this part of the workforce, we have calculated that the cost to our organization for this fiscal year would be $35,000.
Presently, our operating budget is forecast for a loss of 83,000, and we also face a tsunami of sorts in that the demand for our subsidized services, our sliding scale programs is up, while the sources of revenue for charitable activities such as annual campaigns and endowment proceeds in United Way is down.
So the imposition of this additional cost of $35,000 on our organization would be a grave concern in our ability to stay viable and sustain the operation into the future.
Lastly, we anticipate that this bill would cause an administrative problem. The tracking of the sick time, accumulating of it, would be handled by our payroll third-party administrator. However, the weekly determination of who had accumulated sick time, was eligible for it, and assigning it to their particular pay period would produce a tremendous additional burden in the handling 250 to 300 time cards on a biweekly basis. Thank you for your consideration.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you for coming in to testify. This is important information for us to consider so thank you.
FRANK SUMPTER: You're welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions? No, okay.
Next person to testify is Bev Brakeman, followed by Art Perry, followed by Brian Anderson.
BEVERLEY BRAKEMAN: Good evening, Senator Prague and members of the labor committee. I am -- my name is Beverley Brakeman. I'm here -- I'm the political director for the United Auto Workers in Region 9A, and I'm here on behalf of our director, Robert Madore, to urge your support of two bills, 6187, an act mandating employers provide paid sick leave to employees. My testimony says pretty much what everyone else has and you have it writing so I do urge you support that bill.
We also ask you to support Senate Bill 365, regarding captive audience meetings. This bill is an important way for Connecticut to show its support of workers by prohibiting employees from coercing and threatening them into silence.
Several years ago, the UAW was involved in helping a group of workers from Chef's Solutions in East Haven, Connecticut, to form a union. Two union elections were held as the result of a majority of workers signing cards indicating they wanted to form a union. During both elections, there were probably over 20 unfair labor practice violations filed with the National Labor Relations Board, by the UAW, having to do with captive audience meetings. These union-busting meetings were mandated for all employees during the organizing drive. Any employees who stood up to speak up or object were thrown out and further threatened by job loss. Unfortunately, due to the intensity of these meetings employees became so frightened about losing their jobs that despite the majority of cards signed, the elections were lost.
A union election is unlike any other election that people are used to. The employer has 24 hour, seven day per week access to the voters, quote/unquote, giving themselves the upper hand in steering the employees against the union through fear tactics and intimidation.
We strongly support this legislation that would allow all workers to choose freely without intimidation and retaliation to form a union. Please show your support for Connecticut's workers and pass this bill. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions from committee members? No, Bev, you're all set.
BEVERLEY BRAKEMAN: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Art, can you give us your testimony in three minutes?
ART PERRY: I'm going to do a lot better than that.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Good.
ART PERRY: Yes.
SENATOR PERRY: Thank you.
ART PERRY: You have my written testimony.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I do.
ART PERRY: I hope you'll refer to it. What I'd like to add is that not only is my organization, SEIU Local 32BJ and Justice for Janitors of which there were 16 janitors here this evening in support of the Sick Leave Bill, who had to go to work for five o'clock. We're not only supporting this legislation in the state Connecticut. Our organization is supporting this legislation in every state from Washington, DC, up to UConn in Storrs because we believe it is the right thing to do, especially, in this economy and, especially, for low-wage workers and their families.
So we hope that we can get it passed in other states, but we surely hope we can get it passed here in Connecticut.
I want to thank the committee for raising this important legislation again this year, and we're going to work with you to try to make sure it gets through the house this time. And thank you the members from the senate. It's important legislation, and it is the right thing to do from a public health point of view, as well as a moral point of view. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you, Art, and you're right it is the right thing to do.
Any questions from the committee members?
Brian Anderson. Brian's gone home, okay. Next person, Elizabeth Cafarella.
ELIZABETH CAFARELLA: Good evening, Madam Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Elizabeth Cafarella, and I'm the director of public policy at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, CONNSACS. CONNSACS is a statewide association of nine community-based rape crisis centers in Connecticut.
And I'm here tonight to support House Bill 6187, an act mandating employers provide paid sick leave to employees. We support this legislation because we feel strongly that victims of sexual assault should not have to risk losing their jobs to seek counseling at a sexual assault crisis center, to be present in court to request a restraining order, or attend criminal proceedings, or to receive ongoing medical care related to their assault.
House Bill 6187 would provide essential protection to these victims so that they can take the steps they need to recover from the trauma of their sexual assault while maintaining their employment. Just like everyone else, victims of sexual assault are feeling tremendous financial pressures. Our member rape crisis centers report that many clients cannot afford the cost of gas to travel to counseling sessions and that they cancel sessions outright and that many have serious mental health and substance abuse needs that go unmet due to cuts in funding. They tell us that the current economic situation has caused a dramatic increase in stress levels and new clients, partially, as a result of clients having insufficient funds to pay for therapy and other necessary services.
In this difficult economic climate victims of sexual assault cannot afford to lose a days pay, and they certainly cannot risk losing their job altogether.
One of our member programs reported the victims themselves are not the only ones effected. They said parents of child victims need to take time off from work as a result of their children's victimization for medical, legal, or counseling appointments. These parents experience financial loss or disciplinary consequences at work. Parents should not have to choose between bringing their child to counseling or going to court and losing pay, which in turn re-victimizes the child and punishes the entire family.
In this recession, more than ever, it is urgent that we give victims and their families the basic measure of economic security that comes from earning paid sick days. I'm happy to answer any questions.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much and thank you for staying to testify.
ELIZABETH CAFARELLA: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I don't see any hands up, so we're okay.
CHERI BRAGG: Good evening, Senator Prague and distinguished members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Cheri Bragg, and I'm the coordinator of the statewide Keep the Promise Coalition. The Coalition is dedicated to expanding and maintaining community mental health services.
People with mental illness face many hurdles when trying to obtain employment, including lengthy hospitalizations where they have to explain work gaps in their work history, medication issues, and the lack of job supports. Having your credit report judged as a basis for employment adds an extra barrier for people with mental and other disabilities.
For example, a person with bipolar disorder, for example, might over spend when they first become ill. It might lead to a hospitalization and possibly a loss of job and then they may be unable to meet those bills once they become stabilized. This does not mean that they are not capable of working once their illness has been stabilized, but they now have a bad credit history, in fact, not letting them work really is additional barrier for them to meet their bills and their obligations.
Another example -- I just want to let you know that another person submitted testimony but is unable to read it. Her name is Jennifer Garrison. And I would just like to note and hope that you will get a chance to read her testimony later. She gives a personal -- many personal examples how this effected her and her job pursuits.
Again, we just want to stress that mental illness is a biological brain disorder not a failing of character. And we feel that some when people become sick and their bills suffer because of an illness of any type, that it's unfair to sort of add another barrier to getting them back to work and trying to meet their bills, which most people want to do. The examples, obviously, we could cite would limitless but we urge this committee to eliminate this barrier for people with mental illness and others so that they can have success and become members of the community again. Most people living with mental illness can and do want to work. Eliminating credit reports is a basis for employment decisions would facilitate the pursuit of employment adding to the labor force and healthy communities. I thank you for your time.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you for waiting and for testifying.
CHERI BRAGG: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I don't see any questions from committee members, so thank you.
Kathryn Emmett followed by Tim Phelan.
KATHRYN EMMETT: Good evening, Chairman Prague and members of the committee. My name is Kathryn Emmett. I'm an attorney practicing in Stamford, primarily in the area of employee rights and current president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association. I am here on behalf of the association in strong support of Senate Bill 362, which is amending Connecticut's Equal Protection Act, to bring it in line with the federal legislation attempting to eliminate disparities in employment income.
This is a pervasive problem. It is a problem that effects everyone in every status of life. Recent studies show, for example, with the respect to college graduates that there is a pay gap in every field, in every occupation for graduates who are one year out of college, whereby, no matter whether it's a traditional female area of work or a traditionally male area of work. Graduates -- female graduates are earning only in the range of 95 percent at the high end, to 75 percent or lower of their comparable male graduates.
The problem, unfortunately, gets worse. Ten years out of college, there is data now showing that women are earning only 69 percent of comparable male graduates. As was pointed out before --
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
KATHRYN EMMETT: All right. As was pointed out before, this affects people throughout their careers, and there's a career wage gap. The average career wage gap is women earn, approximately, $634,000 less in their career than men do; that gap for college graduates is 713,000; for people with no high school degree, it's 270,000.
This problem recently became a national issue as a result of Lilly Ledbetter's case. A case in which the US Supreme Court said the Federal Equal Pay Act could not be applied because Lilly Ledbetter had been paid at a discriminatory rate for more than 20 years since she had been employed by her employer. And had -- was unable to bring the case now because the pay disparity began 20 years ago. And the fact she didn't know about it, at that time, did not matter.
Justice Ginsburg in her dissenting opinion in that case indicated that this is a very difficult problem to solve legally for various reasons. One is employees don't often know about pay gaps when they begin. People don't discuss, and employers, in particular, don't discuss pay gaps, and also employees don't want to make waves in their employment; and, therefore, it's a difficult problem for employees to attack. As a result of, I think, what people understood to be the real unfairness of what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, federal government has acted to improve equal pay legislation.
And I think it's important for Connecticut to do the same. As pointed out, it is a lot more -- many employees in Connecticut are a lot more able to get into state court both because Connecticut lawyers, for the most part, practice in state court and also because it's a less expensive forum, and it is a problem that the State needs to attack and solve because it affects the economy of everybody. It affects the economic health of our families. And CTLA is in strong support of this bill. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions?
I've forgot tell people who testify on behalf of this bill to call their legislatures and lobby for this. It's -- it's a serious issue for women and totally unacceptable.
KATHRYN EMMETT: Well, I've --
SENATOR PRAGUE: So call your legislators, you know, those people.
KATHRYN EMMETT: I absolutely will, and everyone I can convince to do the same so thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
ALICIA WOODSBY: Good evening, Senator Prague, Representative Ryan and members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Alicia Woodsby. I'm the public policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Connecticut or NAMI Connecticut. I'm here to testify today in support HB 5521, an act eliminating credit reports as a basis for employment decisions, which would prevent employers from making employment decisions against prospective employees based on their credit history.
A poor credit history can serve as a barrier to employment for many people with serious mental illness who already face multiple obstacles throughout the employment process due to factors related to their illnesses, such as stigma, financial distress, ongoing health concerns and trouble obtaining disability accommodations within the workplace.
HB 5521 could ease the employment process by giving people with poor credit the opportunity to gain employment and maintain independence in the community.
According to SAMHSA's National Mental Health Information Center, undetected, untreated and poorly treated mental disorders interrupt careers, leading many to live -- to lives of disability, poverty, and long-term dependence. They found a shocking 90 percent unemployment rate among adults with serious mental illness. This is the worse level of employment of any group of people with disabilities in the nation.
Strikingly, surveys show that many of them want to work and report that they could work with modest assistance. They further note that the nation's largest program for people with mental illness is disability payments. The cost, of which, is unacceptable in both human and economic terms. This is especially disturbing in light of the above fact that most people can and want to work. People with serious mental illnesses are often thrust to financial difficulty --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Sum up.
ALICIA WOODSBY: Sure.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Sure, thanks.
KATHRYN EMMETT: I think the point is that this bill will remove an unnecessary barrier to employment for people who already face multiple obstacles. And are sort of caught in a catch-22 where they can't gain employment because of their credit history and they can't fix their history because they can't gain employment. So we don't think that makes very much sense, and we think this bill will go a long way to helping people be able to become more financial independent and live in the community. And that was it. Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: You're right. Thank you and thank you for coming in to testify.
ALICIA WOODSBY: Absolutely.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Paul, you have three minutes.
PAUL FILSON: Oh, boy. Good evening, Senator Prague and distinguished members of the Labor Committee. Please tell Co-Chair Kevin Ryan, I'm sorry he's not here. He always has interesting things to say when I testify.
My name is Paul Filson. I'm the director of SEIU's Connecticut State Council. We're the Connecticut's largest union. And I'm here to testify on a bill that not too many people have testified on. That's House Bill 5248, an act concerning the legislature's impact on employment in the state.
Essentially, we believe that's unworkable and unrealistic because it requires an impact statement on all bills with fiscal notes. There are well over a thousand bills with fiscal notes each year. The idea that there be an impact statement analysis on bills -- on certain bills, though, and on certain bills with tax -- on tax expenditures certainly does have some merit.
And I support the idea that the General Assembly should be mindful about its impact on jobs. Bills with fiscal notes that reach the floor and the House -- of the House and Senate must always go through debate in various committees of cognizance including the large Appropriations Committee.
Bills that might affect employment that come to mind include minimum wage laws, health insurance mandate laws, laws that effect the health and safety of workers, and I've been present for debate on all those bills -- on many of those bills. Debate on -- about their impact on employment is on the present before bills become law.
Impact statements are much more needed when it comes to the overall budget of the state however. There's little consideration about the effect on over all employment in the state of Connecticut from cuts in spending and from service cuts. Even worse, there's little understanding about the true effect on employment before tax credits for corporations are enacted.
While the General Assembly may understand the immediate effects of cutting a thousand workers from the public's payroll, it probably does not understand the multiplier effect such cuts have in the general communities around the state.
I'll be brief.
Another bill HB 6546, before the labor committee in a few days will address this serious omission and is much more reasonable and workable than House Bill 5248.
I'll just say that SEIU has supported Senate Bill 365 in the past. Employers should not have the right to force workers to attend meetings that have nothing to do with the performance of their jobs. And it's important that I mention that this bill is broad and should not be preempted -- and will not be preempted by federal law because it covers politics and religion, as well as labor organizing.
And, finally, SEIU has supported requiring paid sick days for larger employees. Creating a level playing field for all employers in the state is fair but not make any one employer uncompetitive with another. Paid sick days are humane and, in the end, good public policy, discouraging employee turnover, encouraging productivity and, ultimately, helping workers cope with their health concerns in a way that does not compromise their ability to pay bills. So thank you very much for listening to me.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you. I don't see any questions from committee members.
Next person is Chuck Moran, followed by Ellen Small.
CHUCK MORAN: Good evening, Senator Prague -- Representative Ryan's not here -- members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Chuck Moran, and I'm the president of the Connecticut Lodging Association, a statewide organization of Connecticut lodging properties. I'm here to testify on behalf of the lodging industry in opposition to House Bill 6187, an act mandating employers paid -- provided paid sick leave to employees.
I have submitted written testimony, but I have a few remarks that I wanted to make in addition in this late hour.
We're in the service industry, and we strive to take care of our associates because they take care of our guests. We provide growth opportunity and benefits to encourage retention. I currently have associates that work at my hotel that have been there for over 23 years. We make difficult decisions everyday in an effort to balance operating expenses against associate morale, which directly impacts guest service and the success of our businesses.
It's a difficult time for our industry. Smith Travel Research just reported January numbers, showing that nearly -- occupancies nearly 5.6 percent down from a year in January, nationwide. Connecticut's is down 7.5 percent statewide with Groton/Norwich area region off 10 percent in occupancy from last year. This has been a consistent trend since August.
The last thing our industry needs is a one-size-fits-all mandate that adds additional expense to the industry. We're struggling as it is to keep our associates employed, and an increase burden now would only force hotels to reduce more hours and positions. Do we want to drive business out of the state of Connecticut and add to the unemployment liabilities associated with that, or do we want to continue to fund tourism and stimulate the industry so that we can reward our associates appropriately, adding valuable associates to our payrolls and to your tax revenue stream?
Thank you very much. And also I'd like to mention that we are in support Senate Bill 222, a bill -- an act to increase the tip credit. Thank you very much.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you very much.
Any questions from committee members?
How many employees do you have?
CHUCK MORAN: We employ about 70 to 75 associates at my hotel, specifically.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you.
CHUCK MORAN: You're very welcome.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Ellen Small, followed by -- is it Laurie Roy? Oh, okay. Is Ellen Small here?
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
SENATOR PRAGUE: Okay. So you're next, Laurie. Yes, go proceed.
LAURIE ROY: Good evening, Senator Prague --
SENATOR PRAGUE: Good evening.
LAURIE ROY: -- and members of the committee. My name is Laurie Roy. I'm the human resource manager for Alcoa Howmet located in Winsted, Connecticut. We are a precision machining facility, employing around 192 employees. I'm here today to voice my opposition to House Bill 6187, mandate on paid sick leave. This would require Connecticut employers to pay sick leave.
This proposal would substantially increase our business costs and can force us to reevaluate other benefits that we provide to our employees. The safety and health of our employees is a great priority for us. We offer a very competitive benefit package, which includes paid sick leave.
We really need the members of this committee and the legislative to support our business and others to help us grow. Many businesses across the state are already offering paid sick leave benefits. It's extremely difficult in Connecticut, in today's economic times and the competitive nature, competing in the global marketplace. And results of passing such a bill will force businesses to close or relocate to other states that is more supportive and allows organizations to have the flexibility to offer the benefits package in which they can afford to keep people employed.
All of this means a loss of jobs for Connecticut and impact on each of those family members of those employees. So we urge you to reject this proposal and work with the business community to help control labor workplace costs in Connecticut. Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: I didn't here what business you were representing.
LAURIE ROY: Alcoa Howmet.
SENATOR PRAGUE: And what do they make?
LAURIE ROY: We're a precision machining facility. We're supplying parts to the aerospace and power generation markets.
SENATOR PRAGUE: How many employees do you employ?
LAURIE ROY: 192, In -- in my Winsted, Connecticut location, and another 75 in Branford.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Do you offer them health benefits of any kind?
LAURIE ROY: Yes, we do. We offer medical care, which includes a lot of preventive and wellness-type of benefits to try and keep people healthy because it's important for them and their families to be heal -- to be healthy so that they can be at work. We also have dental, vision care. We have short-term disability should they have a long-term illness. We long-term disability should it be go -- go beyond six months. These are typical benefits that most employers across the state have, and it does include the paid sick leave benefits.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Would you mind telling me something? In your place of employment, when you offer your employees long-term disability, do they pay for that themselves out of their salary?
LAURIE ROY: There is certain percentage that the company contributes. If they want to get a higher percentage above and beyond, then they would contribute to that. But it's pennies. It's very small, small amounts. So it depends on the amount of disability that -- the amount of pay that they would want to get beyond.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Thank you coming in to testify.
LAURIE ROY: Thank you.
SENATOR PRAGUE: Any questions? No.
SENATOR GOMES: Next person is Patrick Hayden.
PATRICK HAYDEN: Good evening, Senator Prague and Senator Gomes and Representatives of the -- distinguished representatives of the Labor Committee. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak before you. My name is Patrick Hayden, and I am president of Donham Craft, Inc., located in Naugatuck, Connecticut. Donham Craft employs 56 people.
I'm here to oppose House Bill 6187. I'm sure you are all aware of the conditions the manufacturing sector is in. And I know that you know will be getting hit with additional taxes, which are expected to help balance the State's budget from the State as it goes forward with this legislature -- with this legislative session.
We can only hope that President Obama's stimulus package supports Connecticut some opportunities for growth and revitalization. Please be aware that, as a manufacturer, we provide employees with three paid personal sick days, 10 paid holidays, and vacation time up to four weeks.
Last week, I was in the unpleasant position of cutting hours from 24 to 16 hours a day. We furloughed eight supervisors and office staff for two to four weeks along with one week rolling furloughs for five direct laborers. At this time, there is not enough manufacturing business in the region to keep all of my people employed, let alone add costs for additional paid sick leave. So, please tell me how I can afford to provide an additional paid three sick days and remain in business.
I have 56 employees. If this bill goes through, I'll have no choice but to cut, at least, seven of those employees. Does that make sense? Do you know what it's like to wait on a Monday morning -- Monday morning's mail to come through to make sure there's enough checks in place to cover payroll? The quick math, 56 employees for me. I already provide three paid sick days, three additional sick days is approximated 21 to 24 -- 24,000 additional dollars a year that I have to come through with.
But more important than the paid sick days, which we try and do our best to provide with the three that we have right now, it's the inability with the folks not being at our facility for that period of time to not be able generate additional $90,000 in sales. Those $90,000 in sales help us to afford the benefits that we already provide. We, I, my employees need your help. Thank you for listening.
SENATOR GOMES: How long have you had those three sick days?
PATRICK HAYDEN: Eight years, that's my guess.
SENATOR GOMES: Then I didn't negotiate them.
PATRICK HAYDEN: No, you were with --
SENATOR GOMES: You have the steelworkers there. Right?
PATRICK HAYDEN: Yes, we do and you negotiated with my -- the former owner, David Niven.
SENATOR GOMES: Yeah, boy, he could cry.
PATRICK HAYDEN: Yeah, he said the same about yourself.
SENATOR GOMES: No, I made him cry. I used to be the rep there. I know about Donham Craft.
PATRICK HAYDEN: No, I missed you by a year.
SENATOR GOMES: A year, all right. I retired about ten years ago, but I hear what you're saying. I'm familiar with Donham Craft. You have about 56 employees now?
PATRICK HAYDEN: We're down from 64 to 56 and, hopefully, not going less than that.
SENATOR GOMES: Is David Niven still there?
PATRICK HAYDEN: No, Mr. Niven's retired, and I've taken over the business.
SENATOR GOMES: I really don't have any questions for you.
PATRICK HAYDEN: Well, thank you very much.
SENATOR GOMES: I'm still in favor of the six days. I was last year. I will be this year. We'll see.
PATRICK HAYDEN: Okay.
SENATOR GOMES: Anybody else have any questions?
PATRICK HAYDEN: Just, once again, please recognize it necessarily isn't the days. It's the dollars of revenue that they generate specifically in manufacturing. Thank you.
SENATOR GOMES: Do we have a Jack Prager, followed by Kia Murrell?
JACK TRAVER: Is that better? Thank you.
Good evening, Senator Gomes and other distinguished members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak before you this evening. My name is Jack Traver, and I'm the president of Traver IDC, a manufacturer and distributor and electric contractor located in Waterbury, Connecticut. We've doing business in Waterbury for 70 years, and we employee approximately 50 employees.
In addition, I currently serve as president of the small -- as a volunteer as president of -- of the Smaller Manufacturers Association of Connecticut. And SMA's is trade association with about 120 members representing 6,000 employees, which coincidentally averages 50 employees per firm which is right on the cusp of the writing of this bill. So I'm voicing my opposition House Bill 6187, the paid sick leave bill because this will substantially increase our business costs at Traver IDC, as well the rest of the manufacturing community, and would force us to evaluate the other benefits we provide our employees.
Our company is barely breaking even at this point and the $50,000 that this bill would cost in actual labor costs in the $170,000 of lost revenue would certainly drive us into the red being upside down. And so, at this very difficult point in time, for the first time in our 70 year history, we've had to make to some cuts. We've got six employees on furlough. Four employees on 32-hour work weeks, and seven employees that have taken pay cuts, and all this had to happen, coincidentally, after 70 years when I was just recognized by the Waterbury Chamber as Manufacturer of the Year. It's like a light switch went off come the first of the year. The phones aren't ringing. Business is very difficult. So, again, I would urge you not to do anything that would impose additional costs on business but, more specifically, on the manufacturing community and even more specifically on my company. At the very least, I would urge you to consider language in the bill that might -- at least exempt the companies, the 5,000 of the 78,000 companies in the state that are, in fact, manufacturers with NAICS codes 31 to 33. Our jobs are the highest paying jobs in the state, and I think that we're the goose that's laying the golden egg, and anything that you can do to help spare the goose would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your time. I'll be happy to answer --
SENATOR GOMES: Does anybody have any questions?
JACK TRAVER: Thank you again.
SENATOR GOMES: Thank you very much.
KIA MURRELL: Good evening all. I'd like to say very briefly I'm Kia Murrell from CBIA. I submitted testimony on House Bill 5248. Just to sum up our position, we --
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
KIA MURRELL: What'd you say? Oh. House Bill 5248, an act concerning the legislature's impact on employment in the state, we think is a positive measure. It's a step in the right the direction to make sure that before legislation is enacted, in this committee or any other, that at a minimum it has a statement of its impact on unemployment.
Right now, everyone's told you about how dire the economic situation is for their particular organization or constituency. You know it. You've heard it but understanding it before you act is going to be key to making sure that your actions are really meant to create and grow jobs and to allow companies in this state to thrive.
I think the key to our economic recovery is going to be in business development. I hope you share those sentiments and will support this measure.
I actually, unfortunately, would like to testify against Senate Bill 365, an act concerning captive audience meetings. This is a bill that's a perennial favorite here at the legislature. It's come up many, many years and pretty much every year since I've been here except for one. In limiting the amount and type of speech that an employer can have with his or her employees in mandatory staff meeting, this bill presents a tremendous burden on an employer's ability to effectively manage their staff.
The bill basically says that if you are to discuss anything that this legislature deems to be political, and that ranges from charitable and community campaigns, contribution campaigns of the sort, collective bargaining issues, issues affecting government operations or politics, in anyway. If you discuss any of those issues with employees, those would be banned under a bill like this. I think we all know if you look at even this own legislature's OLR committee -- I'm sorry -- OLR Commission reports from years ago, even as recent as 2006, this is not the type of bill that would really be well advised at any time but least of all at a time like now where so many companies are struggling to survive and being able to engage their employees about what's happening outside of the workplace and to inform their employees about how government operations, collective bargaining issues, or anything else that they may need to know to save their jobs, it's essential. Anything that limits communication --
SENATOR GOMES: That second whistle was the one --
KIA MURRELL: I don't know what you just said, but I hope in was in support of --
SENATOR GOMES: I said the second bell was the one, would you sum up.
KIA MURRELL: Oh, okay. So, in any event, we don't like this bill. We urge you to reject this bill for same reasons that you see in my written testimony.
With regard to big Bertha, the paid sick leave bill. That -- and I call it that facetiously, but this is a bill that, again, you've heard from me many years before. This is a bill that would have a tremendously negative impact on pretty much all employers in the state whether they fit the purview of the bill or not.
In requiring that every employer of 50 or more hourly or nonexempt employees submit to the same one-size-fits-all policy for granting employee sick leave benefits, you are basically limiting employer's flexibility. You are limiting employer's financial resources, and you are limiting employer's ability to adapt to what is clearly a very turbulent and unpredictable economy.
We are now dealing with an economy of the sort that most people have never seen and have yet to really grasp how far it can go. You're going to take what has already been a litany of extremely high business costs for Connecticut businesses, higher than many states in the nation. We are heads and tails everyone else. We pay more in FMLA benefits, four weeks more than the federal benefit. More in minimum wage, one of the top -- highest in the state. I think we're number six, now, in 2009. We also give extremely high and generous Workers' Compensation benefits and unemployment comp taxes are going higher and higher every month.
SENATOR GOMES: Could you sum it up, please.
KIA MURRELL: Businesses can't afford this. No one can afford this. If you force a one-size-fits-all policy on the state's businesses, you will either force them to close their doors, cut benefits they give to compensate for the increase in cost, or, worse yet, you will cut the jobs of the very people that you think you're helping. So because you have my written statement, I'll very quickly say we urge you to reject this measure. This is a bad idea even in a good economy, but, today, no one can afford this. Let the market dictate employee benefits and choose jobs over a particular amount of sick time. I think people would prefer to work so thank you.
You do the same.
SENATOR GOMES: Mr. O'Brien has a question of you.
KIA MURRELL: Oh, okay.
REP. O'BRIEN: He didn't see me because I was sitting next to him. Just very quickly there was earlier testimony about an article in Forbes Magazine, which I'm looking at right now on my computer. And it says, there's a financial price to coming to work ill that's called presenteeism. It costs employers $180 billion annually, according to a 2007 study by the Society for Human Resource Management. That's more than employers shell out for employee absenteeism, which costs only 118 billion a year. It looks like there's some pretty good evidence that it actually -- actually costs more to have workers come to work sick than to simply have them take a sick day. And what would be your reaction to that?
KIA MURRELL: Well, I mean, I've seen that article, I've seen it quoted in many of the advocacy materials used by the proponents of this legislation, and although I think that that article can leave you with a misimpression that presenteeism is more expensive than the absenteeism, I think that you've heard from numerous companies, whether it was Pat Hayden, Jack Traver, Laurie Roy, employers here today that came to tell you about the cost that they would have to pay to not only cover the paid sick leave benefit but also the absence of the person that's no longer productive when they're out on paid sick leave.
I think you've heard compelling evidence that the cost, even if you just listened to these individual companies, that the cost is tremendous. That it would be the difference between them staying in business and closing their doors. You've got, at least in front of you, a 160 different letters from companies all over the state, including one's in your district, that have their own version of what the cost would be. So, as much as I respect Forbes, we use them all the time. I say that unless Forbes has come to Connecticut and interviewed the vast majority of companies in this state about the cost and the financial impact for their bottom line, it's of no consequence.
REP. O'BRIEN: So, you don't believe the results of the study.
KIA MURRELL: I haven't read the complete study. I don't know if my belief of it is as relevant as my understanding that you can have a study say anything you want. You can skew any numbers in your favor, but I ask you, in addition to Forbes, since you're interested in that type of material, there was a recent study conducted by the federal government, as specifically the US Inspector General, who studied the paid sick leave abuse and absenteeism at state -- sorry -- at government agencies, like the IRS. Their study found that for just the IRS because the ample sick leave benefits that were given to federal employees, it cost that one agency $450 million over about a ten-year period. You know why? Because so many of the IRS employees were routinely taking time off. The Monday after a holiday weekend or the Tuesday after a federal holiday that fell on a Monday. There was a routine and chronic pattern of abuse of the days and times that people took sick leave. And, unfortunately, from what the study indicated, it didn't keep people from coming to work when they were actually sick. It actually encouraged them to save up those sick days for holidays and times that they wanted to use it. So I suggest that I don't know that penalizing behavior or creating an incentive by giving a certain amount of state-mandated sick leave is going to change the behavior that you're looking to address.
In fact, I think that when you mandate it, you encourage people to take it at a time that may be convenient and desirable for them, but the worse possible time for the person they work for. And how do you anticipate having an employer manage a state-mandated amount of time off even when they know that someone's abusing it, using it chronically, or using it fraudulently? How can they deny them the ability to take it if the State now requires it? So I put that in front of you, and I'd be happy to give you everything that I have with regard to the US Inspector's Report because it's very interesting.
REP. O'BRIEN: That would seem to be factored into the aggregate study that the -- that was cited in Forbes, wouldn't it?
KIA MURRELL: I'm sorry. When you say "it," what's the "it" that we're factoring?
REP. O'BRIEN: If you're talking about losses to due to absenteeism. Wouldn't that, in general, be factored into the -- into this study that was cited by Forbes?
KIA MURRELL: You know, I think as a general concept it seems that they're aware that there's a cost to absenteeism but what they've factored in and didn't, I couldn't begin to speak to because I don't know where they got their numbers. I don't know what their sample was. I don't know the demographics of their sample. I don't know what industries their sample represented? What we're the customs and norms of that industry? What was the flexibility and scheduling in that industry? What other mechanism are attendant to the employers that they looked at? What other mechanism do they have, use, employ, or have access to to compensate for absenteeism? I don't know those things so what I would say is, you know, not to be facetious, but you can't believe everything you read. What you do is put it into the -- the pot of information and, hopefully, you come out with a well-balanced approach that has both pro and con. There are a ton of studies out there, and I don't think any of them in conclusive even the ones that, you know, that I like.
REP. O'BRIEN: Would it -- I wanted to ask -- well, I won't belabor. There are other questions I have, but --
KIA MURRELL: Okay.
REP. O'BRIEN: We can certainly discuss that privately. Thank you for your time.
KIA MURRELL: Okay.
SENATOR GOMES: I just liked to ask you one thing based on what you said. You don't --- can't always believe what you read. You can't really take a statistic, like you took, about taking a day off after a holiday and equate that with the norm or the majority of people. I, as a rep know that I had people that would take days off like that whether it was a Friday or a Monday but that was very rare. When you judge the whole workforce, itself, you don't really believe that -- that's a big problem.
KIA MURRELL: Well, I can't speak for all the employers in this state but, at least 10,000 of them that are our member companies, a lot of them have said that the chronic and fraudulent and misuse of sick leave is a problem for them. That's why a lot of people have attendance policies in place. They have management flexibility, and they also devise other reasons other than sick leave -- meaning they might give you paid time off, generally, or they may give you fewer sick days than vacation time, or they may give you a few personal days. They're giving you the ability to take the time when you need it, regardless, of what it's labeled. But to say that a statistic, you can't believe, I agree with you, but I think that there's a difference between a statistic and a fact.
REP. GOMES: That's right.
KIA MURRELL: And a fact is that the US Inspector General found that it costs $450 million to the IRS to pay for everyone to take off Fridays and Mondays.
REP. GOMES: You don't want to believe the fact that Forbes gave you either.
KIA MURRELL: That's a statistic. That is not a fact, sir.
REP. GOMES: You can't believe everything you read. Thank you.
KIA MURRELL: Thank you, always a pleasure.
DOMENIQUE THORTON: Good evening, Senator Gomes and members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. My name is Domenique Thorton, and I work for the Mental Health Association of Connecticut, a private nonprofit dedicated to the service, education, advocacy of people with mental disabilities. I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to speak in favor of House Bill 5521, an act concerning credit reports as a basis for employment decisions. The association sponsors a program called, CHOICE's Supportive Employment for persons with mental health disabilities that creates confidence and skills necessary for them to get, choose and keep job opportunities in the community.
CHOICE's Supportive Employment offers individualized support in choosing, getting, and keeping jobs in a competitive job market serving 30 persons annually, and job coaches assist them on a one-to-one basis to get their confidence and their skills up, and, as you know, employment offers an excellent means to a productive and meaningful life in the community.
The Mental Health Association is aware that a past history of poor credit could be a barrier to future employment for our clients. And, while we cannot speak to any individual instances, specific individual instances, of a person refused for employment, our client employees would not necessarily know that. The employment decision was based upon the poor credit history. We do know, however, that they have poor credit histories. We know that anyone who probably has been on a spend-down in the State of Connecticut, or Medicaid spend-down, has probably got bad -- poor credit history because they haven't been paying their medical bills.
We can also anticipate that some of the people that we work for may be refused employment because of their bad credit histories, and we believe that persons with mental health disabilities, who aren't protected from employment discrimination and a discrimination of public accommodations and credit practices, should also be protected in the area of not using a poor credit history to deny them employment.
Just as an aside, I just wonder what Bernie Madoff's credit rating was before, you know, the $50 billion scam was released. It was probably pretty darn good so I'll say that.
SENATOR GOMES: Well, you heard -- you heard it on some of the banter back and forth that we had on the same bill. You just added another aspect to it that takes advantage of a certain segment of our society.
DOMENIQUE THORTON: That's right. That's right. And I thank you for considering their disabilities and that they would be also be targeted along with persons of color, minorities, and it's a disparate job market to begin with.
SENATOR GOMES: Thank you for your testimony. Thank you very much.
We have a Peter Valentin.
PETER VALENTIN: Good evening, Senator Gomes and members of the committee. My name is Peter Valentin, and I'm a detective with the Connecticut Police. And I'm here today to speak against Raised Bill Number 6333, which is an act concerning the collection of employee DNA.
I'm one of five detectives who comprise the Western District Major Crime Van Unit, and we are responsible for crime scene investigations at homicides, suspicious deaths, and other major crimes. Now, even within this small field of crime scene investigation, my background is somewhat unique. I have a bachelor's degree in forensic science. I have a master's degree in forensic science. I teach forensic science at the University of Hartford, and I'm working on my Ph.D. in forensic science. In short, I'm a forensic scientist who became a state trooper.
The perspective I wish to share with you this evening, as opposed to this afternoon when I wrote this, I'm drawing from my education and experiences, as well my extensive training in forensic techniques and criminal investigations.
The recent advances in the field of forensic DNA analysis have been nothing short of miraculous, and I'm not telling the committee anything that they don't already know. Twenty years ago, we needed a blood stain the size of a quarter to develop a DNA profile. Today, the amount of cellular material needed to -- has decreased to a level that is equivalent of only a few cells. These incredible improvements and the sensitivity have been referred to as touch DNA because the amount of material needed get to a profile can be transferred from merely touching or sometimes breathing on an object. It's implications for the field of forensic science can not be overstated. It is vital, however, this committee recognize that for all the help DNA can provide, it's value in an investigation comes only from the context which the detectives conducting the investigation provide this evidence.
What should be of concern to the members of the committee is the notion of contamination as it's referenced in the statement of purpose for this bill. Contamination is defined within the field of DNA analysis as the accidental transfer of DNA. With the sensitivity of DNA analysis increasing to previously unimaginable levels, what was previously thought of as contamination should instead be seen as common or expected for items that exist that in the environment where they have contact with other sources of DNA, other people.
The increasing sensitivity of DNA testing has created this curious situation where the value of these DNA profiles has actually been reduced rather than increased because these profiles can be generated from so many items because they have human contact. Proponents of the bill might argue that the presence of an unknown DNA on an item is a problem for a criminal investigation -- yes, sir.
I believe this is a fundamental misunderstanding about how we conduct investigations. An investigation does not begin when the detectives receive information from the forensic laboratory about an item. Instead our investigation begins immediately using traditional investigative techniques and the DNA profile, whether is known or unknown, like any other piece of evidence is only a clue in the total picture. And, generally, by the time scientific results come back to us as state police investigators several months have elapsed, and, certainly, it would be unacceptable for us to wait for a DNA profile to continue an investigation.
With all this in mind, it should be clear the compelling all state and local law enforcement to provide DNA to the forensic laboratory is attempt to solve something that has not been identified as a problem by those of us who investigate serious crimes. Contamination is not the issue because practically everything we submit to the laboratory will be contaminated by virtue of its existence in the environment prior to submission to the laboratory. The problem here is the exponential increase in DNA sensitivity without the accompanying change in thinking as to what this information means. Thank you for your time.
SENATOR GOMES: Representative O'Brien.
REP. O'BRIEN: Just very briefly and I'm wading into an area that's probably better suited for the public safety or judiciary committees but is there a -- in general, a way that -- that you would use for screening out what you refer to as formerly as contaminants but now, I guess, you're calling just general background data that you find, is there -- is there a protocol used for screening that out that would qualify as normal?
PETER VALENTIN: To answer that it would really need to be looked at in the context of this specific case that we have in front of us. We don't investigate from the discovery of a DNA profile, nor does our investigation change because we have an unknown profile. Unless the person is the DNA database, CODIS, we have no reason to suspect anybody. We have to do, you know, traditional investigative methods in order to find somebody.
In actuality, if we did find a DNA profile and that DNA profile was not supported by any other investigative information, a bad alibi, witness statements, GPS tracking on a cell phone, what have you, I don't believe that that DNA profile alone would amount to the probable cause necessary to make an arrest, nor should it be. Because the -- this touch DNA could mean the bottle of water that perhaps you drank form this afternoon has the DNA profile of the stock boy who put it on the shelf two weeks ago. That person should not become a suspect. That is not, essentially, contamination that is just the life span of every object in this room. So it really -- what we should be doing is reevaluating the importance that we give the DNA that we do find and, perhaps, not always being as sensitive in our testing.
There are times when that's sensitivity is required when traditional methods fail to yield any profile in human identification, for instances, where you have unidentified human remains and you need to identify who this person is. But, as for general forensic testing, the idea of reaching such low levels that now you're getting this coincidental contact, I think is ill advised. So it's -- this bill is attempting to address something certainly we as detectives don't see as an issue as we conduct our investigations.
REP. O'BRIEN: And it sounds like with, you know, without, again, delving into any of the details of what you do, it sounds like you're already developing the way that you deal with that problem?
PETER VALENTIN: Yes, and, certainly, that is probably my role within my unit specifically because I good understanding of the science. As I -- I sort of temper people's expectations, not only about DNA, but about other scientific techniques that are available to us through the forensic laboratory. And, sort of, correct some of the misnomers and misperceptions that are, you know, perpetuated by the media, and by television and what have you.
REP. O'BRIEN: Would it be safe to say that this is an area where you're having a lot of communication with law enforcement nationally and trying to figure out the way -- the proper way of using this new evidence with a sensitive measuring?
PETER VALENTIN: Anecdotally, I have certainly had conversations with colleagues of mine and people -- and laboratory personnel in other jurisdictions to find out how they're approaching this, but, certainly, no other jurisdiction has had it come up in the way that we've seen it come up here in Connecticut so I couldn't purport to give you the right to handle this.
REP. O'BRIEN: Okay. Thank you.
PETER VALENTIN: My pleasure. Thank you very much. You have a good evening. I'll get the lights on the way out.
SENATOR GOMES: Brian Anderson.
BRIAN ANDERSON: Good evening, Chairman Gomes, members of committee --
SENATOR GOMES: Did you hear what Representative Aman said.
REP. O'BRIEN: I missed this (inaudible.)
SENATOR GOMES: He's going to cancel the meeting and without him we don't have a quorum.
REP. O'BRIEN: Oh, that's right. Oh, well.
BRIAN ANDERSON: I'm here for AFSCME Council 4, a union of 35,000 Connecticut public and private employees. I'm here to testify in favor of House Bill 6187, an act mandating employers provide paid sick leave to employees. The respected Institute for Woman's Policy Research estimates that only 60 percent of Connecticut workers have sick leave. That means that over 655,000 workers in our state don't. Institute research shows that granting sick days economically benefits workers, employers, and our society in the long run.
Economic benefits aside, this is common sense public safety bill. When workers report to work sick, there's a good chance they can spread the sickness that makes even more people sick and continues to spread the sickness to more folks. This is a particular problem when these workers are in service industry jobs, such as working in a restaurant, hotel, or retail establishment. The sick worker can unwittingly and unintentionally spread the flu and other ailment to the very customers that they serve. Unfortunately, it is workers in just such jobs that often aren't getting paid sick days by their employers.
We submit a fax sheet from the US Department of Health and Human Services concerning the deadly avian flu. It says the Center for Disease Control -- experts agree that it is not a question of if a pandemic will occur but when it will occur. It goes on to saying comparing avian flu outbreak in the 1918/1919 flu pandemic that if a pandemic of similar severity occurred today, 2 million Americans could die. This bill safeguards the public.
In summary, we support Senate Bill 362, an act concerning equal pay for equal work. Senate Bill 365, an act concerning captive audience meetings. We oppose Senate Bill 804, an act concerning municipal binding arbitration, rather than expanding the right to reject the words, we'd like binding arbitration to actually be binding, which is what the framers of the concept created with it. And that is end of my testimony.
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
BRIAN ANDERSON: Well, it's not as much fun without Kia here.
A VOICE: (Inaudible.)
SENATOR GOMES: Meeting's adjourned -- hearing's adjourned.