Saturday, June 4, 2011

Connecticut's Politically Progressive Moves

The Connecticut General Assembly has been very busy making up for lost time this week. Two bills that have been on the agenda for quite some time and stirring up advocacy efforts and activism from the social workers in Connecticut. After many dedicated hours, the fruits of the labor have paid off (no pun intended) to much benefit of Connecticut’s citizens.

HB 6599: An Act Concerning Discrimination
After hours of deliberation the Connecticut Senate passed the Bill 20-16 with Democratic Senators Hartley and Doyle opposed. The Bill was passed by the House in mid-May on a vote of 77-62. Governor Malloy advocated for the Bill’s passage stating that acknowledging gender expression is a “step forward in the fight for equal rights for all Connecticut’s citizens.” The primary provision of the Bill is the mandate to add the words “gender identity or expression” to anti-discrimination statements pertaining to employment, housing, healthcare, distinguishing factors, and other areas of life.

SB No. 913; An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees
Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives approved legislation for business in Connecticut that employ fifty or more people to allow workers to accrue one hour of sick time for every forty hours worked. Following eleven hours of debate on Friday, the Bill passed on a 76-65 vote. The Bill has already been cleared by the Senate will now move to Governor Malloy’s desk. Based on his campaigning, there should be no doubt that he will sign it into law. As Governor Malloy himself stated “…its just good public health policy…”

The most substantial changes made to the text are found in Section 2 which details the employer’s responsibility to the employee. Specifically employees have the rights to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour of paid sick leave for each forty hours worked in one hour-increments up to a maximum of forty hours per calendar year. Employees are entitled to carry over up to forty unused accrued hours, but no more than the maximum hours accrued in any year. Furthermore, Section 4 states “No employer shall take retaliatory personnel action or discriminate against an employee because the employee…requests to use paid sick leave…” One news source stated that between 200,000 and 250,000 employees in over 68 occupations will benefit. Other sources believe the number of people positively affected could reach 500,000 when accounting for all who benefit. The paid sick leave can be used towards one’s own health concerns, related treatment and preventative care, or to take care of a child or spouse. The Bill, however, excludes temporary employment and day workers, thus it is still; not 100%.

Both bills have had extensive support from the social work community. Students committed themselves to the causes for course work, applied themselves in field work, and volunteered when able. Outside of academia, NASW Connecticut motivated its members through social media and educational outreach. The affirmation of both bills into law is a step forward for Connecticut’s citizen’s to attain their human rights. Furthermore, it is a progressive move politically for the State as well as for the profession.

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