Wage violations are about to get more costly for Connecticut employers. A new statute, effective October 1, 2015, requires courts to award double damages plus court costs and attorneys’ fees if an employer has failed to pay an employee’s wages (including minimum wage and overtime owed), accrued fringe benefits, or arbitration award. The new law applies to all employers in the state.
Previously, Connecticut law allowed for double damages and attorneys’ fees only in cases involving bad faith, arbitrariness, or unreasonableness on the part of the employer. Now the burden is shifted. Double damages can be avoided only if an employer can establish it acted in good faith. While good faith is not defined, under federal law it requires that the employer have reasonable grounds for believing the act or omission was not a violation of the law. It can be difficult to establish “reasonable grounds” for such a belief and, at a minimum, the employer should be able to establish that it investigated its obligations under the law. Consulting with experienced labor and employment counsel on your wage-and-hour practices is the best way to ensure compliance.
While most employers mean well when it comes to wage-and-hour laws, the intricacies can be extremely complicated. Are you making payroll deductions lawfully? Are you properly classifying your employees as exempt and non-exempt? Employers should proactively assess their compliance with wage-and-hour laws to avoid costly audits and lawsuits. An attorney can help you conduct a self-audit to evaluate your pay practices and correct errors before you become the subject of enforcement actions.
Our team of labor and employment attorneys can assist you in keeping up with employee pay requirements and addressing other labor and employment law compliance issues.