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.