It is the right of every employee to receive fair pay for the work they do. Unfortunately, not all employers agree. In an effort to save money and pad their profits, some employers take money out of their workers’ pockets or fail to pay their workers all of their legally-mandated compensation. At Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., our Connecticut wage and hour attorneys understand how vital every dollar is to you and your family. For more than 40 years, our employment attorneys have been standing for the rights of employees across Connecticut. We will work to ensure that your employer pays you all the money you deserve for the labor you have done.
Wage and Hour Laws in Connecticut
The basics of wage and hour law are relatively straight-forward. First, if you and your employer agree on a compensation package – whether that is salary, hourly, commissions, or something else – your employer must pay it. Second, everyone – with limited exceptions– is entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they work. In Connecticut, as of January 1, 2017, the minimum wage is $10.10 per hour. Third, most employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times your regular hourly rate; many people call it “time-and-a-half.”
In theory, these rules are relatively simple. In practice, though, they can be quite complicated. Take, for example, the minimum wage. You might think “minimum” means “minimum.” In reality, though, the “minimum wage” does not apply to everyone. Farmworkers, seasonal workers, and informal workers (such as babysitters) may not be entitled to the minimum wage. Restaurant servers and bartenders are only entitled to the “service minimum wage,” so long as they receive tips to make up the difference. And certain interns can be paid nothing at all, even if their work contributes to their sponsor’s bottom line.
The rules governing overtime are even more complex. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, everyone is entitled to overtime pay except when they are not. In other words, certain professions or workers are “exempt” from the overtime laws, and figuring out which workers are “exempt” is no easy feat. Some of the most common exemptions are:
- The executive exemption: This exemption applies to employees who are paid a salary of at least $475 per week; have a primary duty of managing a department or recognized sub-department; direct the work of at least two full-time equivalents; and have the authority to hire or fire another employee or make recommendations with respect to hiring and firing that are given particular weight. This exemption generally applies to managers and supervisors.
- The administrative exemption: This exemption applies to employees who are paid a salary of at least $475 per week; have a primary duty of performing office or non-manual work; and have a primary duty that requires discretion and independent judgment. This exemption can apply to a variety of positions, including human resources managers, marketing managers, or billing coordinators.
- The learned professional exemption: This exemption applies to employees who are paid a salary of at least $475 per week and who have a primary duty that requires advanced knowledge that is predominantly intellectual in character and customarily obtained through a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. This exemption frequently applies to professionals such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants.
- The creative exemption: This exemption applies to employees who are paid a salary of at least $475 per week and who have a primary duty that requires creativity. This exemption frequently applies to writers, musicians, artists, and photographers.
- The sales exemptions: Salespeople can be exempt whether they are “inside” or “outside” salespeople. “Outside” salespeople are only exempt if they regularly travel for work. “Inside” salespeople are only exempt when they work in the retail or service industries and when at least half of their pay comes from commissions.
As the above examples show, a salary alone generally does not render an employee “exempt” from the overtime rules. Just because you receive a fixed salary, in other words, does not mean you are not entitled to be paid overtime for your work over 40 hours per week. Most of the exemptions rely not just on the structure of your pay; they also rely on what you are doing day in and day out. So if your employer doesn’t pay you overtime just because you “get a salary,” your employer may be breaking the law.
What Are Some Common Wage and Hour Violations?
The violations of Connecticut’s wage and hour laws are as varied as the employers in our State. For every rule, there is at least one violator. Many of these violations are accidental; some, unfortunately, are intentional – an attempt to obtain an unfair edge over competitors and to take advantage of the most workers’ ignorance of their rights. These are some of the common schemes that you can keep an eye out for:
1. Misclassification as “exempt”: Some employers give their employees fancy titles — such as a “manager” or “supervisor” — and then work them 50, 60, 70, or even more hours per week without any overtime. These so-called “managers” frequently do the same manual labor as the hourly employees they purportedly supervise. This is particularly true in the retail industry. If your primary work is not managerial, then your employer is not entitled to the executive exemption, and you may be entitled to overtime, regardless of your job title. Remember: just because you earn a salary does not mean you don’t deserve overtime pay.
2. Failure to pay for all hours worked: Some employers force their employees to work through lunch or breaks and never compensate them for that work. If your pay is automatically docked for lunches or breaks, even though you sometimes work during those unpaid periods, you may be entitled to more money. Likewise, if you have to do something for your employer (such as putting on safety equipment or driving between your employer’s officers) before you are “on the clock,” you might be entitled to compensation for that time.
3. Misclassification as “independent contractor”: The rules for minimum wage and overtime only apply to “employees.” They do not apply to “independent contractors.” So some employers will call their workers “independent contractors” even when they are not, in order to skirt the compensation rules. If you are an “independent contractor” but don’t have any actual independence, you may be misclassified and entitled to higher pay.
Our Connecticut Wage and Hour Attorneys Will Fight for You
Our Connecticut wage and hour attorneys have been recognized by our peers and a number of legal organizations for our outstanding legal work. We work as a team to give you the best possible representation. We have taken on almost every large employer in the State of Connecticut, and we are not afraid to stand up for your rights.
We understand the frustration and anger you may feel from not receiving proper compensation for your hard work. That is why we work to make sure you receive every dollar you deserve.
If you believe your rights as a Connecticut employee have been violated, please contact Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti now for a confidential evaluation of your case from our Hour and Wage attorneys.