Connecticut has enacted its own laws to protect the rights of workers and employers nationwide. In most cases, the protection provided by Connecticut laws is broader than federal law, including more employees in its coverage and expanding the rights and benefits of employees statewide.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time
Connecticut labor laws do not clearly define full or part-time under wage and hour law. This means that an employer generally has the right to decide whether an employee as full or part-time. An employee’s classification typically depends on the type and amount of hours an employee works. If an employee is classified as full-time, then employer may provide benefits, but part-time employees do not usually have the same rights as full-time employees.
Connecticut’s state laws do not define full-time employment, but an employer’s right to define full-time vs. part-time employment may be restricted by a collective bargaining agreement, a contract, or a federal law.. This means that an otherwise designated “part-time employee” may have the rights of a “full-time employee” under certain circumstances.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law regulating employee wage and hours. But Connecticut also has its own state wage and hour laws, which are generally more favorable to employees. In 2014, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass a law setting minimum wage at $10.10 an hour. The minimum wage increase became effective January 1, 2017.
The state minimum wage is different for employees in the service industry who usually receive tips. The minimum wage for service employees is $6.38, and the minimum wage for bartenders is $8.23. However, employers must still make sure that service employees and bartenders are paid at least the standard minimum wage of $10.10 an hour when tipped wages earned are combined with tips received. Subminimum wage is only allowed under the following circumstances:
- Employees with disabilities can receive subminimum wage, if the employer has a special license;
- Trainees and learners can be paid subminimum, but not less than 85% of minimum wage for the first 200 hours of employment, and the employer must have permission from the Connecticut Department of Labor to pay learners subminimum wage; and
- Apprentices, if the employer has permission from the Connecticut Department of Labor
The general rule is that an employer must pay overtime of time and a half wages to any employee working over 40 hours per week. However, there are exceptions to this rule. An employer is not required to pay overtime to “exempt” employees who fit into categories of executive, administrative, or professional roles.
Connecticut does not have state laws requiring employees to receive a break, but federal laws provide that, when an employer chooses to provide breaks lasting less than twenty minutes, those breaks must be paid.
Though Connecticut does not require all employees to receive health benefits, as of January 1, 2015, the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act established that employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees must provide health coverage to full-time employees, or will otherwise be forced to pay tax penalties. An employee is considered “full-time equivalent” under federal law if he or she works an average of 30 hours per week, or over 130 hours per month.
But given the changes in the law, it is possible that the mandate will no longer apply so be sure to verify by consulting a lawyer.
Connecticut employment is "at-will", which means an employment relationship can be changed (duties, hours and/or wages, termination, or discipline) for any reason – even one that is or seems unfair or undeserved. But the reason cannot be one of the expressly protected reasons under Connecticut state or federal law.
There are both state and federal exceptions to at-will employment. Generally, Connecticut’s state laws are more protective of employees than federal laws. In addition to the federal standards of protection, employees are protected against harassing conduct on the basis of the individual’s protected status, If an employee complains about something that they reasonably believe to be discrimination or harassment in the workplace, Connecticut protects against retaliation by the employer. Though the protections of Connecticut’s state laws are broader than the classes protected under federal law, it is important to keep in mind that punitive damages are no longer available for state law employment discrimination claims.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to permit all eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for any of the following reasons:
- To care for a seriously ill immediate family member (child, parent, spouse);
- To recuperate from their own serious health conditions;
- To bond with a new child; or
- To handle urgent matters related to a family member’s military service. Keep in mind that 26 weeks off must be given if an employee needs to care for a family member suffering from serious illness or injury from military service.
An employee must work for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months to take time off under the FMLA..
In addition to an employee’s right to leave under federal law, Connecticut extended employee rights under its state version of the FMLA when employers have at least 75 employees. Under Connecticut’s state laws, these employees are allowed to take up to 16 weeks off in any 24-month period under the following circumstances:
- If the employee needs to recover from a serious health condition;
- If the employee needs to care for a family member with a serious health condition (note that Connecticut law includes more family members than federal law, such as in-laws, domestic partners, and children of domestic partners);
- If the employee needs to for the birth, adoption, or placement of a child; or
- If the employee needs time for organ or bone marrow donation.
Lastly, Connecticut requires employers to give paid sick days to employees. The paid sick-leave requirement applies to employers with more than 50 employees in the service industry (e.g. nurses, janitors, bank tellers, etc.). Employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave per 40 hours of time worked. Up to 40 hours of sick leave time may be accrued by an employee each year, and the employee can use this paid time off either for their own illness or to care for an ailing family member.
At the end of an employee’s leave, the employee must be returned to his or her original position, or at least a similar position with similar pay and benefits. Employers cannot prevent use of employee leave, discriminate against an employee during or because of the employee’s leave, or retaliate against an employee when the employee returns from leave.
Where Can I Find a Local Employment Lawyer to Help Me?
Most employment laws have strict deadlines that must be complied with, so if you think you are not getting the basic rights and protections offered by Federal Law and/or Connecticut’s state labor laws, do not hesitate to contact a local employment lawyer today. The attorney can help you understand your rights and how to protect yourself.