Beginning today, Connecticut employers will no longer be allowed to ask prospective employees about their salary histories during job interviews.
It's one of a handful of new laws that go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
Dubbed the "pay equity bill," the 2018 legislation was part of an effort to help women receive equal pay for equal work. Proponents, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, argued during the legislative debate that women were disproportionately harmed when an employer asks about their past salary rates, a move that could ensure women who were underpaid at their first job continue to be underpaid throughout their careers.
Malloy said that creates a cycle and causes harm, especially for minority women.
Other new laws aimed at protecting women are also set to take effect, including legislation protecting free access to contraception.
Some highlights of new laws:
THE SALARY QUESTION
While employers won't be able to ask about a prospective employee's past wages and salary, the new law does not apply if the worker voluntary discloses his or her pay history. Also, the law specifically allows an employer to ask about other elements of a prospective worker's compensation, such as stock options, so long as the employer doesn't ask about their value.
The new law also allows prospective employees to sue within two years over an alleged violation of the law. Employers may be found liable for compensatory and punitive damages.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARRESTS
Police officers will have more discretion as to who they arrest in domestic violence cases under a new law set to take effect.
The legislation requires law enforcement to determine which party is the dominant aggressor. During this year's legislative debate, advocates for domestic violence victims said Connecticut's rate of dual arrest, when both the aggressor and the victim are charged, is more than twice the national average.
They said that discourages victims from calling police for help.
During the Senate debate, Republican Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton, a former police officer, said current law would often require him to arrest both parties, which would "throw total chaos into the entire family." The new law also expands police training so officers and state's attorneys can better determine the dominant aggressor.
ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS
With the fate of the federal Affordable Care Act uncertain, Connecticut lawmakers have taken steps to protect the 10 essential health benefits.
Beginning Jan. 1, most health insurance policies in the state will be required to cover those services, including emergency room trips, outpatient care, mental health services, prenatal care and ongoing care for the baby throughout childhood. It also requires women have access to various contraceptives with no out-of-pocket costs.
The legislation, which received strong bipartisan support during the 2018 legislative session, was pitched as a way to protect women's health if the Obama administration-era legislation was overturned.
A separate new law expands the types of breast imaging services that certain health insurance policies must cover in Connecticut.
CRUMBLING FOUNDATIONS SURCHARGE
A new $12 annual surcharge will begin being levied on certain homeowner insurance policies from Jan. 1 until Dec. 31, 2029.
Under the law, 85 percent of the revenue generated from the surcharge will be deposited into the Crumbling Foundations Assistance fund to help homeowners with concrete foundations damaged by the presence of pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide that reacts naturally with water and oxygen, causing the concrete to crack and crumble.
The remaining 15 percent will be used to fund grants to help certain homeowners in New Haven and Woodbridge with other structural damage issues, and for lead, radon and other contaminant abatement activities.