The Connecticut minimum wage increase is statutory, meaning it was voted as part of state laws, rather than being a cost-of-living increase. A number of states, including Florida, Vermont, Washington and Oregon increase the minimum wage each year to adjust for inflation. Connecticut does not.
The state minimum wage is being increased by statute in New Mexico, as well as Connecticut. In New Mexico, the minimum wage will go from $6.50 to $7.50 per hour on January 1, 2009.
The Connecticut minimum wage will increase again, from $8.00 to $8.25 per hour, on January 1, 2010.
A North Stonington, Connecticut substance abuse facility has been ordered to pay more than $1 million in back wages to satisfy a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the suit, the U.S. Department of Labor claims that Stonington Behavioral Health Inc. failed to pay 143 employees for the time they worked, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA.
In addition, the suit also named Stonington Behavioral Health, Inc.’s parent companies, Universal Health Services of Pennsylvania and UHS of Delaware, Inc. The violations occurred at the Stonington Institute rehab facility.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division uncovered underpayments to more than one hundred employees who worked with substance abuse patients. The employees lived in the company’s “sober houses” where recovering patients were housed. According to investigators, the employees were regularly required to work additional unpaid hours.
At issue were hours that the employees were required to be available on duty in the house, but which they were not paid for. Under federal law, an employee in a residential facility who is not free to leave the premises is considered to be working.
Stonington required that employees remain available to patients and on the premises, even during hours when they were “off.” According to sources at the U.S. Department of Labor, the company failed to record all the hours worked by the employees. Under the FLSA, companies have an obligation to keep accurate payroll records, to pay employees for all hours worked, and to pay overtime when an employee works more than 40 hours per week.
“Among this department’s highest priorities is making sure that workers are paid all the wages they have earned,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “In this case we have recovered more than $1 million in back wages for 143 employees.”
The defendants agreed to the consent judgment without admitting any wrongdoing, which resolves the matter. Under this judgment, the defendants, including Stonington Behavioral Health, Inc. agreed to pay a penalty of almost $50,000 plus $1,075,218 in back wages for the period covering July 1, 2004 to July 1, 2006.
The payments for wages and overtime totaling $1,075,218 average about $7,519 per employee. They must be paid no later than September 5, 2007. In addition, the companies have already paid $49,156 in civil penalties.
The judgment was filed in March by the Regional Solicitor’s Office in Boston, in a U.S. District Court for Connecticut. It was signed by Judge Janet Bond Arterton. As part of the judgment, the defendants are prohibited from violating the federal minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping laws in the future.
This announcement comes in the wake of a number of successful suits by the U.S. Department of Labor for overtime and minimum wage violations. In one recent example, nearly 2,600 workers who cleaned up and renovated two naval facilities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina were awarded $1.5 million in back wages. The affected workers were hired by federal contractors and subcontractors to complete work on military facilities in Gulfport, Mississippi and Belle Chasse, Louisiana.
In that case, the employees worked for one of 107 sub-contractors hired by KBR, Inc. of Virginia. The companies involved failed to pay wages and benefits required under federal contracts. In most cases, federal contractors and their sub-contractors must pay the “prevailing wage” in an area. This means they are required to pay a rate that is often significantly higher than the minimum wage. In some cases, the companies involved also failed to pay overtime wages. The U.S. Department of Labor is still searching for some of those workers, to make sure that they receive the money they are owed.
The US Dept of Labor brings employers attention to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which covers how employees should be paid when they work over 40 hours per week.
According to the FLSA, employees who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime payments of 1.5 their normal hourly rate, for each hour they work over 40 hours. But problems can occur when employers do not take employee incentives into account when calculating overtime payments.
This is what happened to Wal-Mart, Inc., and the US Dept of Labor recently announced that the company has agreed to pay more than $33 million in back wages to employees, to comply with the federal and Connecticut minimum wage laws.
It was found that Wal-Mart violated the Connecticut overtime laws. The company did not take incentive or premium payments into account when calculating over time payment for many of its employees over a period of time from February 1, 2002 and January 19, 2007. The back payments that Wal-Mart has agreed to pay effect around 86,680 employees.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, if an employees’ basic rate is $6.00 per hour, but with incentives they usually earn $7.00, then the overtime payment should be calculated on 1.5 times the $7.00 per hour and not the $6.00 per hour basic. Wal-Mart calculated the overtime payments on the basic hourly rate, and did not take incentives into account.
The Dept of Labor files a compliant against Wal-Mart in the US District Court. This covered the violation of the FLSA overtime payment provision, as well as infringements of the state minimum wage laws.
Wal-Mart has agreed to pay not only the back wages, but also interest on the money.
I say that, and then I’m going to explain to you how the underpinnings of it are basically the same as most of other state overtime laws and the federal guidelines. As we’ve seen in other states, the cutoff for overtime starts in Connecticut at 40 hours a week. Any time spent working over that bar, and the employer has to pay his worker one and a half times the employee’s normal wages.
However, Connecticut law makes some room for employers and employees to define their workweeks on their own. In section 31-76e of the state law, Connecticut makes it clear that an employer and an employee can come to a contractual agreement that defines the workweek as some other length. This contract can also come about by collective bargaining. Such contracts, the law goes on to say, could be made up if the nature of the employees job leads to irregular work hours.
These contracts, to be valid, must meet the state minimum wage laws. And the overtime pay rate of 1.5 times the normal pay rate must hold up for any time worked over the defined work week length in the contract. What’s more, the contract must guarantee payment by the employer for up to 60 hours of work per week.
There’s another interesting aspect of Connecticut overtime law that we should look at. Namely, hospital workers can be exempt from the normal overtime laws in relation to length of work. If the hospital employer and the employee agreed to it beforehand, it’s legal for the worker to put in 14 consecutive days and have that stand as their “normal” workweek, instead of seven. In this case, any time over 8 hours per day, or 80 hours in a two-week period, would qualify for overtime pay.
The Connecticut Complete Labor Law poster is available reflecting the most current overtime laws including all of the federal labor laws.