Wage and Hour Law
There are federal and state laws in place to ensure that Connecticut employees are paid fairly. For example, most employees must be paid the state minimum wage, and when most hourly workers exceed 40 hours in a given workweek, they are supposed to be paid overtime. There are also very strict guidelines about which employees can be salaried, and employers are not allowed to force or pressure employees to work when they are not on the clock just to save on labor costs.
At The Upton Law Firm, LLC, we have been standing up for the working people of Connecticut for more than four decades. We believe that all employees have the right to work in a safe and legal environment, and when employers are in violation of federal or state labor and employment laws, we work tirelessly to obtain appropriate relief for our clients and to ensure that those who violate these laws are held fully accountable.
Common Wage and Hour Disputes in Connecticut
There are countless ways an employer can violate state wage laws. Some unethical employers even look for loopholes they can exploit to pay their workers less than they deserve. Some of the most common wage and hour violations include:
Minimum Wage Violations
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most employers are required to pay a minimum wage to their hourly employees. The minimum wage in the state of Connecticut is currently $10.10 per hour. Since it is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that is what state workers are entitled to. Your minimum wage may be different if you work in a city or county that has implemented a higher minimum wage. If you work in a hotel or restaurant and earn tips, your employer is allowed to pay you below the minimum wage as long as you make enough in tips to compensate for it.
Under the FLSA, hourly non-exempt workers in Connecticut have a right to be paid 150% of their regular hourly rate (aka “time and a half”) when they work more than 40 hours in a given workweek. For example, if your regular hourly rate is $15 per hour, you should be paid $22.50 per hour when you go over 40 hours in a week. Employers are required to pay for all overtime worked, not just hours that were scheduled.
Some workers are exempted from federal overtime rules. These include:
- Salaried employees who earn at least $475 per week. Many executive, professional, and administrative employees fall into this category;
- Employees who work regularly outside of the primary business location, such as outside salespeople;
- System analysts, software engineers, programmers, and other employees with certain computer skills. Exempt computer specialists must earn at least $27.63 per hour under federal law;
- Seasonal employees who work in establishments such as ski resorts, amusement parks, county fairs, and non-profit or religious camps or education centers;
- Certain employees of smaller newspapers as well as newspaper delivery people;
- Subcontractors who are not direct employees but are paid with a federal 1099 form.
One of the common ways unscrupulous employers try to avoid paying overtime is to misclassify a non-exempt employee as exempt. For example, professionals, executives, and administrative employees are supposed to have jobs that require independent judgment and discretion. It is not enough to give an employee a certain job title when in reality their duties are no different than an hourly employee. Another way that employers misclassify workers is by calling them independent contractors when they do not qualify to be in this category. The IRS has very strict guidelines on who can be classified as an independent contractor. Unfortunately, many employers are either ignorant of these rules or they choose to ignore them.
Working Off the Clock
Not paying employees when they are on site and preparing to start work and expecting them to clock out right when their shift ends even when they still have work left to do are two common ways employers violate wage laws. Working “off the clock” is a widespread problem in the workplace. Sometimes, employees are overtly pressured to do this. Other times, the pressure is more subtle, and employees work off the clock out of a sense of obligation or to show their employer that they deserve a raise or promotion. Either way, working when you are not on the clock is a violation of the FLSA.
Unpaid Breaks and Time Off
Most employees in Connecticut have the right to take an unpaid 30-minute meal break when they work at least a 7 ½ hour shift. If your employer does not give you at least this much time off in paid breaks during your shift and makes you work through your unpaid meal break, you may be eligible for compensation. Federal law requires employers to pay employees for all breaks during the workday that last 20 minutes or less. In addition, you must be paid for any time you are working, even if your employer calls it a meal break. For example, if things are busy at the office and your boss decides to deliver pizza to your desk so you can eat while you are working, you must be paid for that time.
Wage and Hour Violation Claims
Federal and state laws give employees the right to collect damages above and beyond unpaid wages when they file an administrative claim or lawsuit. Under Connecticut law, employees can collect double their unpaid wages as compensation. Employees may also collect double the damages if they are not paid their final paycheck on time. If you are terminated or laid off, you must receive your final paycheck by the next business day. If you quit, your final check must be ready by the next regularly scheduled payday.
Wage and hour claims can be filed with the Wage and Workplace Standards Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor. You may also choose to pursue a private lawsuit against your employer for double the damages plus legal costs. The deadline for filing a claim or lawsuit is two years from the date the claim arose, so if you believe you have a case, it is best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Speak with a Skilled Hartford Wage and Hour Attorney
At The Upton Law Firm, LLC, we have in-depth experience handling wage and hour dispute cases. We understand the complexities of these types of cases, and the most important factors that help ensure a favorable result. We are dedicated to serving the needs of workers, and we only represent employees in these types of cases. We never represent employers or insurance companies.
For a personalized consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call us at 860-893-0558, visit our West Hartford office in person, or send us a message for a free case assessment.