Thousands of businesses every day violate federal and state labor laws, paying their workers below the minimum wage or stiffing them on overtime pay. Wage theft is one of the most important issues affecting the lives of employees across the country, but it may be particularly prevalent in Connecticut, where hundreds of thousands of employees work in low-wage jobs, at or around the State’s minimum wage.
Connecticut Wage & Hour Laws Explained
Wage theft is such a big problem in Connecticut that the State’s legislature was forced in 2015 to increase the penalties on employers who violate minimum wage and overtime laws.
The only way to enforce that penalty, however, is to file a civil lawsuit. Connecticut lawmakers have empowered workers to pursue justice in court, by filing a lawsuit for financial compensation after a wage and hour violation. In successful claims, Connecticut employees can win double the back wages that were stolen from them.
To learn more about your rights as a worker in Connecticut, contact our experienced unpaid overtime attorneys today. While our lawyers are not admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut, we frequently work with a nationwide coalition of wage and hour attorneys who can help you pursue financial compensation. Just call us now for a free consultation.
What Is Connecticut’s Minimum Wage?
The 2017 minimum wage in Connecticut is $10.10 per hour, nearly $3 higher than the federal rate of $7.25, which hasn’t changed in more than a decade. That means that the vast majority of Connecticut workers are entitled to the higher wage, which is now $10.10. There’s no public plan to increase the State minimum wage in 2018.
Learners & Beginners
Connecticut’s Public Act No. 14-1, which outlines the State’s position on the minimum wage, defines only one exception to the picture we’ve just presented. “Learners, beginners” and workers under the age of 18 can be paid a lower wage, the law says, but only for a short period of time.
During their first 200 hundreds on a new job (usually one in which they have no prior experience), “learners” and minor employees can be paid 85% of the Connecticut minimum wage. For the foreseeable future, that comes out to around $8.60 per hour. After 200 hours on the job, these workers become entitled to the full minimum wage for their labor.
Service Employees & The Tip Credit
As in the Fair Labor Standards Act, Connecticut State law allows some employers in the service industry to “take a credit toward the minimum wage” in paying their tipped employees. This “tip credit” allows employers to pay wages that are technically below the minimum wage, so long as the worker’s hourly rate in tips makes up the difference.
Connecticut law allows employers to take a tip credit of $3.01 for every hour of what the State defines as “service” work. Compared to other states, Connecticut is fairly specific about what sort of job duties count as tipped labor, or “service” work. As the State’s Department of Labor writes, employers can only take a tip credit for “service employees,” workers “whose duties relate solely to the serving of food and / or beverages to patrons seated at tables or booths, and to the performance of duties incidental to such service, and who customarily receives gratuities.”
In practice, that boils down only to restaurant servers (waiters and waitresses) and even then, only applies to these employees when they are serving patrons at tables or booths, performing tasks related to that service and receiving tips for their labor. But Connecticut goes even deeper than that, outlining six concrete job duties that make you a tipped worker for the purposes of State labor law:
- taking food and beverage orders from patrons
- bringing the orders to the table or booth
- cleaning up the immediate area of service
- filling the condiment containers at the tables or booths
- vacuuming their own immediate service area
- replacing the table setting at their own service area
That’s it. Anything outside of these six tasks is considered a “non-service” duty in Connecticut. And Connecticut employers can’t take a tip credit for “non-service” work. So let’s say that you can properly be classified as a service employee under Connecticut’s labor laws. What is your employer allowed to do?
How Connecticut’s Tip Credit Works In Practice
The first thing to remember is that Connecticut employers (and we’re really just talking about restaurants now) can only take a tip credit for “service” hours. Let’s assume, then, that you worked a total of 30 hours, 10 of which were spent performing “service” duties when you received tips. And, to make things simple, we’ll also say that you’re making the State minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.
If you were being paid normally, you’d make $303 for the week, since that’s $10.10 times 30 hours. But you’re employer can take a tip credit of $3.01 for the 10 hours that you spent doing “service” tasks. Since $3.01, times 10 hours, is $30.10, your employer can take a tip credit of $30.10 for this specific week. This is a simple matter of subtraction. Your employer can subtract $30.10 from the $303 you would be owed (if you were just making the minimum wage as normal) and pay you a total of $272.90.
That’s perfectly legal under Connecticut law, but since the State’s tip credit rules are complex, and different from the regulations set forth in federal statute, lots of employers get it wrong. Other businesses intentionally violate Connecticut law, hoping to keep some of your wages for themselves to pad profits. In either case, violating either State or federal labor law is out-of-bounds. And employees who have had their rights violated are entitled, by law, to pursue their back wages in civil court.
Connecticut’s minimum wage laws don’t look anything like the federal standards established by the Fair Labor Standards Act. On the question of overtime, however, the State follows federal law to the letter.
Eligible employees in Connecticut become entitled to overtime wages (paid at time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s regular rate of pay) for any and all hours over 40 in a single workweek. So if you work 46 hours in a week, and are covered by Connecticut’s overtime law, you should be paid a premium overtime wage for the 6 extra hours that you worked. That overtime wage should equal 1.5 times your normal rate.
If you usually make $10 an hour, you should get paid $15 for overtime. And, if you make a salary but are still eligible for overtime, your annual or monthly salary should be converted into an hourly rate. The result of that calculation can then be multiplied by 1.5 to arrive at your correct overtime wage. Some bonuses and commissions also need to be included, since they usually count as compensation under federal and Connecticut law.
Connecticut law doesn’t have any special requirements for overtime that would be paid on a daily basis. Neither does the Fair Labor Standards Act. In Connecticut, as in most of the United States, overtime is calculated strictly on a weekly basis. A “week,” in this context, simply means a regularly-recurring period of 168 hours, 7 consecutive periods of 24 hours. It doesn’t have to start on Monday.
CT Lawmakers Increase Labor Violation Penalties
Connecticut recently made it harder on employers who violate the law. In 2015, the State’s Senate passed Bill 914, which imposes a double fine on minimum wage and overtime violators. A worker who can prove that his or her employer broke Connecticut’s wage and hour laws should recover twice the amount of owed back wages. That’s a major disincentive to illegal pay practices, but it’s also proof that wage theft is a real problem in Connecticut. If there was no problem, the Senate wouldn’t have to increase the penalties for breaking the law.