For employers, preparing for winter weather includes ensuring all employees are paid properly on snow days. Many employers are surprised to learn that their payroll does not take a snow day when their employees do. While snow days are probably the most common application of the principles discussed in this article, these rules apply to
This is Part 1 in a 6-part series on Connecticut Employment Laws You Didn’t Know Existed.
Do you pay your employees at least weekly? If you answered no, you are in good company. Bi-weekly pay (paying employees every two weeks) is probably the most common choice of pay frequency. However, a quirky feature of Connecticut’s wage payment statute makes weekly payment the default rule. For most employers, the only way to pay less frequently than once a week is to obtain permission from the Commissioner of Labor.
Fortunately, it is very easy to request permission to pay bi-weekly. Employers can simply fill out the form available at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/forms/paywaiver.htm, and within a few weeks, the Connecticut Department of Labor will respond. The request is almost always granted. This form can only be used by employers requesting permission to pay bi-weekly. Employers that wish to pay less frequently (e.g. semi-monthly or monthly) can send a letter to the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards division stating the reason for the request. However, such requests are less likely to be granted. Paying less frequently than monthly is not permitted.
As summer approaches, many companies are beginning to hire students to work as unpaid interns. While unpaid internships are a time-honored tradition, they are almost always illegal in the for-profit world. Typically, the so-called “intern” is actually an employee who must be paid minimum wage and, if applicable, overtime. Depending on state law, Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment might also apply to these individuals. Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in enforcement surrounding this issue, and employers can no longer assume their unpaid internships will go unchallenged. Like with most other employment laws, it does not matter if the individual agrees to an arrangement that is not permitted by law. “The intern agreed to work unpaid” and “everyone in my industry does it” will not defeat a lawsuit or Department of Labor audit.
Many employers are under the mistaken impression that if the intern receives academic credit, there is no need to pay the intern. This is not true. Although some states require academic credit in order for the intern to be unpaid, this is never the sole factor.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 6-part test, for-profit companies must pay interns at least minimum wage, unless all of the following criteria are met:
- The intern must receive training and the training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
- The training is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under their close observation;
- The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The Obama Administration’s goal of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 has for the moment stalled in the Senate. A Republican led filibuster has all but killed the President’s hopes of signing the Bill, which would increase the minimum wage by the November mid-term elections.
Senate Republicans, citing concerns about the effects that an…
Every employer in the United States must post at least some labor law notices. Many state and federal employment laws come with such a requirement. While different posters are needed for different situations (for example, based on the employer’s size or industry), no employer is exempt from posting at all. It may be obvious that failing to meet all posting requirements can result in legal liability. What is less obvious is that posting inapplicable notices may also result in legal liability – a danger if your company uses an “all-in-one” labor law poster service.
What’s Wrong with Too Many Posters?
Many employers overlook the risks of posting inapplicable labor law posters. Each year, many employers receive offers to purchase a laminated “all-in-one” poster designed to cover all bases. But, one size rarely fits all when it comes to the law. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) generally applies only to companies with 50 or more employees. If a 20-employee company posts an FMLA poster, could this statement of employee rights bind the company to provide leave to the extent required by that statute? At least one court has held that in the right factual circumstances, an employee may be entitled to take leave akin to FMLA leave.
Seven (7) Long Island restaurants have consented to a settlement with the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) that includes $1.6 million in back pay as well as over $110,000 in penalties and interest for willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Specifically, the DOL found the restaurants failed to pay employees a minimum wage, paid employees in cash, had illegal tip pools, and failed to keep records of all hours worked.
A recent speech by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez at the IAFF conference provided some details about the changes to the managerial exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Significantly, Secretary Perez reiterated that the current salary threshold of $455 is inadequate and that the primary duties test creates an employer friendly “loophole” that is used to prevent many low income employees from earning overtime.
The last changes to the managerial exemption occurred in 2004 when the salary threshold was raised from $250 to $455. This was the second increase in the 40 years the exemption has existed. The remarks by Secretary Perez mirror those made by President Obama back on March 13th that the current $455 threshold is inadequate.
Are your employees prohibited from discussing their wages? Many employers have such policies in their handbooks. If you have not read your employee handbook lately, now is the time to dust it off and see if you have a pay secrecy policy buried in the contents. If you have such a policy, it is most likely illegal. Pay secrecy is viewed as a barrier to equal pay for men and women, as well as attempts to unionize companies, so there is a strong push to eliminate such policies.
On April 8th, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees or applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their own compensation or the compensation of another employee or applicant. There is one limited exception pertaining to employees with access the compensation information of other employees because of their essential job functions, such as payroll clerks. Violating this provision could lead to the loss of federal contracts and potential debarment. If your business relies heavily on federal contracts, such a penalty could put you out of business. The executive order applies to federal contractors, rather than employers in general, because the President would be unable to create such a rule on his own, and would need Congress to pass legislation.
It’s déjà vu for Connecticut employers. The Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Malloy have approved the second minimum wage hike in less than a year. Just ten months ago, legislation was passed to increase the minimum wage to $8.70 on January 1, 2014, and $9.00 on January 1, 2015. The new legislation changes the 2015 minimum wage to $9.15 and institutes rates for 2016 ($9.60) and 2017 ($10.10) as well. The employer share of the minimum wage for tipped employees and the apprentice rate will be correspondingly adjusted, as they are based on percentages of the minimum wage.
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the issues that arise when employer investigations produce false information and/or confessions. Usually, these situations occur because the person conducting the investigation is employing a technique that is not tailored to the work environment or is using a best practice that is outdated due to …