Wage and Hour Attorneys Helping You Get Your Unpaid Wages & Overtime Pay

You work for a living, and you’ve earned your wages.

Your ability to pay your rent or mortgage, medical and education costs, transportation, and put food on the table depends on getting paid the money you are owed, when you are owed it.

At Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, LLC, we can help make sure that you are paid the wages that are owed to you. Our attorneys have successfully helped employees throughout Connecticut get the pay they have rightfully earned, and we stand ready to help you, too. Contact Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, LLC to learn about your rights.

Filing an Unpaid Wage Claim

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) spells out federal law regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and what your employer may or may not deduct from your paycheck. If you have been paid less than you earned, whether your regular wage or overtime wages, you have the right to file a claim in court, or with the Connecticut Department of Labor, Division of Wage and Workplace Standards.

If your rights have been violated, you can also choose to pursue a lawsuit through an experienced employment law attorney. An employment attorney will fight to get you not only your unpaid wages, back pay or overtime owed, but also liquidated damages (compensation that is generally equal to the unpaid wages), as well as court costs and attorney fees.

Common Wage and Hour Violations in Connecticut

While many wage and hour violations are blatant—such as paying below the minimum wage or deliberately paying for fewer hours than were actually worked—others may be less obvious or may seem easier to hide. They include:

Incorrectly Calculating Overtime Pay

In addition to simply not “adding up” the correct number of overtime hours, you may not be paid the right amount of overtime. If you are eligible for overtime, you should be paid time-and-a-half for anything over 40 hours in a given week.

Failure to Pay for Off-the-Clock Time

Anything from being required to check and answer emails while off the clock, to loading a truck before your shift officially begins, is work that benefits the company and must be paid for.

Employee Misclassification

Many overtime claims involve situations where employees are incorrectly classified as “exempt” employees when they do not satisfy the criteria for that classification and are denied overtime pay as a result. The “gig economy,” which is prevalent in today’s workforce, means that many workers are freelancers or independent contractors who do not receive benefits or have income tax, Medicare, or Social Security withheld.

Misrepresenting employees as independent contractors, when they actually qualify as employees who are entitled to the protection of minimum wage and overtime laws, is a violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Connecticut Minimum Wage Act, and IRS regulations. If your employer has misclassified you, you may be entitled to the payment of wages and other damages.

Tip Sharing/Tip Pooling Violations

Our firm has experience representing servers in the restaurant industry who have been deprived of wages that they earned, and have been subjected to improper tip sharing and tip pooling arrangements which violate the law. This is an especially complicated issue because of a recent change in federal law.

Your employer cannot make deductions or distributions of your tips that reduce your pay below minimum wage, and they cannot take a larger tip credit for overtime hours. If you believe that your rights have been violated as a result of an improper tip sharing or tip pooling practice, you should consult with an experienced wage and hour attorney.

Paying Less Than Minimum Wage

In Connecticut, the minimum wage for most workers is $15.69 an hour as of January 1, 2024. Workers under the age of 18 are entitled to 85 percent of the minimum wage.

Workers in the restaurant and hospitality, health care, and janitorial/cleaning services industries are among the most likely to be victims of unpaid wage and overtime pay violations.

At Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, LLC, we help make sure that you get paid every penny you’ve earned. To learn more about your rights as a worker and to find out how we can help, please contact us online or call us at (860) 246-2466 to schedule a confidential consultation with a wage and hour attorney by phone or through videoconference. We also have offices conveniently located in Hartford and New London.

Federal and State Overtime Laws

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the corresponding Connecticut Minimum Wage Act (CMWA) provide for the payment of overtime pay. The FLSA and the CMWA regulate the hours that employees can work and the circumstances under which they must be paid overtime compensation.

Generally, overtime must be paid at a rate not less than one and one-half times the employee’s regular hourly rate after the employee has worked 40 hours in any given week.

There are several ways in which employers may try to avoid paying overtime wages:

  • Classifying an employee as “exempt” from the payment of overtime
  • Giving an employee a job title that does not reflect the employee’s actual duties
  • Having employees work “off the clock” before or after the start of their scheduled shift
  • Paying employees “straight time” for overtime hours worked
  • Forcing employees to “clock out” for breaks and meal periods, even if the employee did not use that time
  • Averaging the employee’s hours worked over a two week period

Classifying an Employee as Exempt

Employers often attempt to misclassify employees as exempt from the payment of overtime wages. Generally, any exemption asserted by an employer is narrowly construed against the employer, which means that the employer has the burden of proving the employee is exempt. The exemptions most frequently asserted by employers are the administrative, executive, and professional exemptions.

The Administrative Exemption

An employer asserting the administrative exemption must demonstrate that employee is paid more than $455 per week; that the employee’s primary duties must consist of office or non-manual work that is directly related to management policies or general business operations; and that the employee must customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment in matters of significance.

Properly exempt administrative employees will have the ability to exercise discretion and independent judgment on a routine basis. Employees that have no authority to hire or fire, independent purchasing authority, or perform work that is routinely approved by a higher level manager may not be properly classified.

The Executive Exemption

Some employers assert the executive exemption. To fall within the executive exemption, an employee must be compensated at least $455 per week; their primary duty must be managing the enterprise, or managing a department or subdivision of the enterprise; and they must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees or their equivalent. In addition, the employee must have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or their suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion or any other change of status of other employees must be given particular weight.

The Professional Exemption

The professional exemption requires, among other things, that the employee’s primary duty be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, which is defined as work predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment and with knowledge that is customarily acquired through a prolonged course of educational instruction. The exemption does not apply to fields of work in which skills are learned through on the job experience. The professional exemption is applicable to positions such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other jobs in which advanced degrees are required.

Remedies Available for Failure to Pay Overtime

Federal law permits an employee to recover two years of overtime pay and may include an additional year if the employee is able to demonstrate that the employer’s actions were willful. Connecticut law permits an employee to recover up to two years of overtime pay.

In addition, federal law allows for liquidated damages (doubling of the total recovery) unless the employer can demonstrate that it acted in good faith, while Connecticut law provides liquidated damages upon the employee’s showing of the employer’s willfulness. Willfulness requires proof that the employer acted recklessly, which is a standard higher than unreasonableness. In addition, both federal and Connecticut law permit the recovery of attorney’s fees for a successful plaintiff.

Retaliation is Not Permitted

Often, employees fail to raise their concerns regarding their employer’s failure to pay them overtime compensation. Both federal and Connecticut law prohibit an employer from taking any adverse or retaliatory action against an employee who seeks to assert their rights under the law. In Connecticut, it is also unlawful for an employer to wrongfully discharge an employee for a reason that violates an important public policy.

This claim is available for employees who are terminated from a job because they have opposed some action which is illegal, or presents a threat to public safety, or violates some other important public policy, but for which there is no specific statute that authorizes an employee to bring a claim for retaliation for reporting violations under the law.

If you believe your employer retaliated against you for speaking out about a wage and hour matter, you should immediately consult with a wage and hour attorney for advice as to whether you have a retaliation claim under a particular statute, or, if not, whether you can pursue a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of some important public policy under Connecticut law.

Work with a Skilled Wage and Hour Attorney

If you are not being paid fairly or are being denied overtime pay you should be getting, you should pursue your rights. If you are not sure whether you are being paid what you deserve, talk to a wage and hour attorney.

Please contact us online or call us at (860) 246-2466 to schedule a confidential consultation with a Connecticut wage and hour attorney.