Julie Kushner

State Senator

Julie Kushner

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together for Progress

May 25, 2021

Senator Kushner Leads Senate Passage of Legislation Requiring Employers to Recall Laid-Off Workers in Order of Seniority

Today, the State Senate passed legislation requiring employers to recall certain laid-off workers during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in order of seniority, an effort to promote equity and fairness. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of workers were laid off across the state; this act will ensure that as employers recover and rehire workers, they must bring back workers in seniority order, or length of service, before hiring new employees. State Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) led the Senate’s adoption of the bill; she serves as Senate Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

“This bill represents a ‘reset,’ so to speak, for workers,” said Sen. Kushner. “Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs because of the pandemic – this legislation will ensure that some of those workers will rest easier knowing that when the economy improves, their job will be there for them. A 20-year McDonald’s worker shouldn’t be replaced with a new, younger worker. But that’s exactly what happened — he was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic. A few months later, when customers returned, the employer scaled back up, but didn’t rehire the long-term worker. This is just plain wrong.”

Senate Bill 658, “An Act Requiring Employers To Recall Certain Laid-Off Workers In Order Of Seniority,” requires private-sector employers with at least fifteen employees in the janitorial, maintenance, security, hospitality and foodservice industries to meet certain requirements related to recalling employees laid off between March 10, 2020, and December 31, 2024. Those employers must: notify laid-off employees about available positions they are qualified for, then offer positions first to those who can qualify for the position with current skill levels or who can take on the role with the same training as a new employee. If more than one employee is entitled to the preference for the position, seniority would determine who gets the offer. Employees would have five days to accept or reject an offer.

Employee qualifications will be determined by the employees’ holding the same or similar positions at the enterprise when most-recently separated from service or care, or can be, qualified for a position with the same training as a new employee hired for the position. A rehired employee must work for at least 30 work days unless there is just cause for their termination.

If a laid-off employee declines the offer due to certain reasons, such as an underlying health condition leaving them at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, the laid-off employee retains the right to recall until the end of the public health emergency and a position is being filled.

If an employer hires someone instead of a laid-off employee with seniority, the employer must give the laid-off employee written notice identifying the other person including the reasons for the decision.

The bill prohibits employers from retaliating against laid-off employees for exercising their rights under the bill. A laid-off employee aggrieved by a violation would be allowed to bring civil action in Superior Court.

In public testimony about the bill, Senate President Martin M. Looney said it would protect workers, ensuring they will return to former jobs at former rates of pay and conditions of work, protecting them from being forced to reapply for their jobs as if they were new employees being hired at a much lower rate of pay. “The last year has been a long year for employees in our state as they have struggled with the economic hardship caused by the pandemic,” Senator Looney said. “We owe them a fair deal and a level playing field as they work to regain their former economic standing.”

The legislation passed the Labor and Public Employees Committee by a 9-4 vote in March. The legislation now moves to the House for their consideration.