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.
It also means you cannot be paid less than the applicable minimum wage.
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.
Get everything you earned and deserve by filing an unpaid wage claim
The Fair Labor Standards Act 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, who 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.
- Not being paid for off-the-clock time: Anything from being required to check and answer emails 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 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 reduces your pay below minimum wage and they cannot take a larger tip credit for overtime hours. If you believe that you rights have been violated as a result of an improper tip sharing or tip pooling practice, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney.
- Simply paying less than minimum wage: In Connecticut, the minimum wage for most workers is $11 an hour as of October 2019, increasing to $12 an hour in September 2020 and, by June 2023, to $15 an hour. 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.
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 by phone or through videoconferencing. 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 employees regular hourly rate after the employee works 40 hours in any given week.
There are several ways in which employers may attempt to avoid the payment of overtime wages:
- classifying an employee as “exempt” from the payment of overtime;
- giving an employee a job title which is not reflective of the actual duties of the employee;
- 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 such time; or
- averaging the 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 employee. The exemptions most frequently asserted by employers are the administrative, executive, and professional exemptions.
The Administrative Exemption
With regard to the administrative exemption, an employer asserting the administrative exemption must demonstrate that employee is paid more than $455 per week, 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 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.
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 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 you have been retaliated against by your employer for opposing something that you thought was wrong, you should immediately consult with qualified counsel 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.