Changes to Connecticut FMLA are coming! Just when you thought you had CT paid leave mastered...

by Armando Rodriguez, Esq - Product Compliance Counsel, Compliance And Legal Department

& Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

December 09, 2021

 

January 1 is just around the corner and Connecticut employees will be eligible to receive Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) benefits. But that's not all! Many changes to the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA) are also effective as of January 1, 2022. In all of the hullabaloo concerning CT private plan exemptions and collecting contributions, it is easy to overlook changes to CT FMLA but you do so at your peril!

The good news is that the changes were meant to make the CT FMLA align more closely with CT PFML. Remember, CT PFML is a pay benefit and is not job-protected. That job protection comes from the CT FMLA and a Connecticut law that provides leave for reasons related to family violence.

Wow, it's been a busy time for this blog! We've been posting fast and furiously regarding all the developments relating to COVID vaccination mandates or anti-mandates. (Is that a term?) But you know – those laws, executive orders, or what have you that prohibit or limit vaccination mandates. If this is of interest to you, just scroll down to review our many posts on the topic, starting back on November 5. Special thanks to Lana Rupprecht, our Director of Product Compliance, for giving up normal life to stay on top of this fast-moving topic!

Here we’ll highlight all the changes to CT FMLA effective January 1, 2022, and provide a few notes on comparison of the Connecticut FMLA and PFML laws. (And by the way, there are no changes to the family violence job protection law but the CT paid leave law was designed to align with it in all respects.)

Broader Coverage

  • Through December 31, 2021
    • Applies to employers with 75 or more employees
    • Employees become eligible after 12 months of service with the employer and having worked 1000 hours in the 12 months preceding the first day of leave
  • As of January 1, 2022
    • Apply to all employers who employ 1 or more Connecticut employees
    • Employees become eligible after 3 months of service

More Covered Relationships

  • Through December 31, 2021
    • Employee’s spouse; minor or disabled child; or parent
  • As of January 1, 2022
    • Employee’s spouse; child (regardless of age or disability; parent (now including in-laws); grandparent; grandchild; sibling; and any other “individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships”. Relationships are broadly defined to include individuals related through blood, marriage, or by adoption or foster placement.

Greater Total Leave Entitlement

  • Through December 31, 2021
    • 16 workweeks in a 24-month period
      • Co-employed spouses must share entitlement for birth, adoption, or care of a parent
    • 26 weeks for care of an ill or injured service member
  • As of January 1, 2022
    • 12 weeks in a 12-month period (so in effect, up to 24 weeks in a 24-month period of 2 leave years – plus the 2 weeks per year mentioned below for incapacity during pregnancy)
      • Co-employed spouses must share entitlement for birth, adoption, or care of all family members
    • An additional 2 weeks available for incapacity due to a serious health condition during pregnancy
      • The CT FMLA and PFML have identical language on this provision. And get this: Although the CT DOL has not yet spoken as to CT FMLA, the CT Paid Leave Authority takes the position that the extra 2 weeks are available for any incapacity during pregnancy, not just those related to or caused by the pregnancy.
    • 26 weeks for care of an ill or injured service member

The Connecticut Department of Labor recently issued guidance on how this transition will work for existing CT FMLA claims that cross over from 2021 into 2022; you can find it here (scroll down a little way – it’s in the body, not a link).

Reduced Employee Eligibility Requirements

  • Through December 31, 2021
    • 12 months of service with current employer plus 1000 hours worked in the 12 months prior to leave
  • As of January 1, 2022
    • 3 months of service with current employer

Eligibility for CT PFML is different. As of January 1, an employee only needs 3 months of service with the current employer to be eligible under the CT FMLA. On the other hand, to be eligible for the CT PFML, an employee must be currently employed, or employed in the last 12 weeks, and must have earned at least $2,325.00 in the employee’s highest quarter in the first 4 of the 5 most recent completed quarters. Eligibility is “portable” for PFML and can be established with an employer other than the current employer from whom leave is sought. Thus, it is possible, depending on the facts, that an employee may be eligible for job-protected leave but not pay benefits or vice versa.

Leave Reasons

Reasons for leave under the CT FMLA remain unchanged. An employee can take leave under the CT FMLA for his own serious health condition; for organ or bone marrow donation; to care for a family member with a serious health condition; for bonding with a new child; due to military exigencies relating to a family member’s call or order to active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; and to care for a servicemember with a serious illness or injury incurred in the line of duty. These leave reasons are all covered under CT PFML as well, although the leave entitlement under CT FMLA for care of an ill or injured servicemember is 26 weeks, while under CT PFML it is only 12 weeks of benefits.

In addition, under a separate Connecticut statute, employees can take job-protected leave for up to 12 days for reasons related to being a victim of family violence. This is also a covered reason for 12 days of pay benefits under Connecticut PFML.

Sharing Leave Entitlement

  • Through December 31, 2021
    • Co-employed spouses must share leave entitlement for bonding with a new child or for care of a PARENT with a serious health condition
  • As of January 1, 2022
    • Co-employed spouses must share leave entitlement for bonding with a new child or for care of ANY COVERED FAMILY MEMBER with a serious health condition

But note that under CT PFML, each employee, even married co-employees, are entitled to their individual 12 weeks of pay benefits with no sharing.

Matrix Can Help!

States are always updating and expanding their leave laws. We’re always on the lookout for changes and new laws that impact the services we provide. Whether on this blog, at one of our quarterly compliance update webinars, or in compliance consultations with our client employers and business partners, you can count on Matrix to keep you updated on the latest developments in leave of absence, paid leave benefits, and ADA accommodations.

As mentioned above, the changes to the CT FMLA were intended to make the CT FMLA more compatible with CT PFML. However, there are still material differences and Matrix’s absence management services are ready to handle the changes and coordination of the Connecticut laws, the federal FMLA, and your company policies.

Contact your Matrix or Reliance Standard account manager, or one of our regional practice leaders for more information or send us a message at ping@matrixcos.com.