Recently, the Connecticut Department of Labor announced their proposed plans to revise the already amended Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was put into full effect on January 1, 2022. The proposed batch of incoming regulation changes hint at state lawmakers planning a significant expansion of Connecticut’s FMLA, with notable additions including updates on anything from the process for verifying familial relationships to filing employee complaints that cite specific FMLA violations. Additionally, the proposed revisions could also bring about new regulations not present within the original legislation, which could include fitness-for-duty requests, contact with employees’ medical providers to obtain authentication of certifications, reasons for recertification requests and other topics.
Going forward, any and all revisions to FMLA are likely to make the biggest impact on businesses and companies in Connecticut operating with 50 employees or less who, prior to 2022, under the state’s first iteration of the act, have not been required to provide such provisions to employees. In order to avoid unwanted litigation in the future, smaller employers must take immediate action to ensure they comply with the updated FMLA requirements. That’s not to say that larger employers won’t be subject to changes as well.
Similar to smaller companies across the states, larger employers will also have to review and revise their current workplace policies and procedures to meet the revised FMLA standards. With nothing set in stone yet, Connecticut based employers are bracing for a barrage of incoming legal and workplace violations claims. A virtual hearing to discuss the proposed FMLA revisions is set to take place on February 17, leaving already raddled employers on all levels to wait a bit longer.
Republican lawmakers in Maine are considering the construction of a new legal defense fund to combat the ongoing wave of struggling businesses within the state, primarily the state’s foremost economic resource to date: the lobster industry. In addition to facing the continual obstacles the pandemic has presented, Maine’s lobster industry, along with other statewide fishing businesses, are now expected to face a new batch of fishing laws, rules and regulations designed to protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Earlier this week, Republican Representative William Faulkingham, a former lobster fisherman himself, stated that he will be personally overseeing this fund and the commission constructed to administer it. Faulkingham and other state Republicans propose the new legal defense fund should be fully back by the money collected throughout the 2021 fiscal year, which includes license surcharges as well as the sale of lobster trap tags.
In a public hearing earlier this week, Maine’s Lobsterman’s Association and other state lawmakers expressed their disapproval for the incoming bill, citing a bevy of both environmental and financial risks. As legal defense efforts continue to pop up all over the state, legal experts expect this bill to remain dead in the water for the time being.
On February 2, 2022, the Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity, introduced the Massachusetts Information Privacy and Security Act (MIPSA), a new comprehensive data privacy bill that has been under committee consideration since March 2021. Backed by Democratic Massachusetts state Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Andres Vargas, the bill is set to make its way to the statehouse floor. If enacted, the proposed law would more than likely reshape the ways in which Massachusetts businesses are able to interact with consumers. In addition to expanding the Attorney General’s data enforcement control, legal experts anticipate this bill will cause an increase in the cost of data privacy design and complexity, leaving companies exposed to a variety of litigation risks.
Aimed at protecting the personal data of Massachusetts residents, MIPSA draws inspiration from recently enacted data privacy bills in California and Illinois. If amended, MIPSA could permanently halt the creation of independently monitored data privacy agencies, which track biometric and language data in conjunction with state organizations. With the state legislative deadline approaching, members of the Massachusetts legal community anticipate MIPSA will be met with little to no resistance when it hits the statehouse floor next month. Going into full effect 18 months after enacted, this act will set the bar high for other states prompting change on a data privacy front, while also providing a brief glimpse of where data protection laws could be headed.
On September 3, 2021, the Vermont Supreme Court issued a decision regarding the Snowstone LLC appeal of landmark Act 250, legislation originally enacted in 1970 to provide the state with a judicial process for reviewing and managing all environmental, social and fiscal issues that may arise when dealing with land development. The appeal concerned the credibility of Act 250 when applying it to “one-acre towns,” or a municipality that has yet to enact zoning or subdivision law and regulations.
Snowstone LLC, a Vermont-based contracting and construction company who’s quarry development project nearly exceeded the one-acre regulation (0.93) in a town without subdivision bylaws, shouldn’t have triggered Act 250 into effect at all. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the threshold for one-acre land development was determined by measuring the size of the work site itself, rather than the overall size of the property/parcel, further validating Snowstone’s appeal.
On February 11, 2022, in a somewhat rare jurisdictional occurrence, the Vermont Supreme Court decided to entertain an appeal in regard to the 2021 decision. Fully in compliance with state development and zoning laws, Snowstone was successful in winning its appeal of Act 250, putting a nearly six-month legal ordeal to rest. As the demand for environmental land protection and regulations continues to grow, state lawmakers anticipate an influx in zoning litigation in the coming months.