The U.S. Department of Labor has issued new FMLA Notice and Certification forms for use by employers subject to federal FMLA requirements.  The DOL is required to update these forms every three years under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980. The previous forms expired on May 31, 2018, and had been extended monthly until the new forms were released effective September 1, 2018.  Employers should start using the new forms immediately.

Of note, “new” is a relative term here, as the updated FMLA forms are identical to the previous versions – with the exception of the expiration date of August 31, 2021. The new FMLA forms are available on the DOL website at https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/forms.htm

This is Part 3 in a 6-part series on Connecticut Employment Laws You Didn’t Know Existed.

Any time you are having employees pay you – whether through a payroll deduction or by having the employee pay you directly – you are walking into a legal minefield.  Deductions are typically allowed only when there is some benefit being provided to the employee in exchange.  Costs of loss, breakage, and customer theft are treated by the Connecticut Department of Labor as part of the “cost of doing business,” and are almost never recoverable from an employee.  While many employers are familiar with these parameters, many do not realize that most deductions must be authorized in writing by the employee on a form approved by the Commissioner of Labor.  Even more surprising is that the sample form provided on the Connecticut Department of Labor’s website may not be used without approval from the Commissioner of Labor!

So how do employers take deductions lawfully?  First, make sure the deduction is for a permissible purpose – no deductions for loss, breakage, or customer theft!  Some examples of permissible purposes are deductions required or authorized by state or federal law (such as taxes or garnishments) and deductions for contributions into automatic enrollment retirement plans.  These may be deducted without having an authorization form approved by the Commissioner of Labor.  Deductions may also be made if they are authorized by the employee, in writing, for medical, surgical or hospital care or service, without financial benefit to the employer and recorded in the employer’s wage record book.  This written authorization does not need to be approved by the Commissioner of Labor.  Any other deduction must be made pursuant to written authorization on a form approved by the Commissioner of Labor.

If you wish to make deductions requiring approval from the Commissioner of Labor, follow these steps:

  1. Draft a form that clearly explains the purpose of the deductions to be made and leaves room to fill in the dollar amounts to be deducted.  For items of benefit to the employer, such as uniforms or other equipment, you must ensure that the deduction does not result in the employee receiving less than minimum wage.  Spreading the payments out over time can help avoid this problem.  Be specific as to the nature of the deduction.   Do not include lines like “Other,” as these forms will not be approved!   You can use the sample form available on the Connecticut Department of Labor’s website to help you draft your own form.  Different sample forms are available for uniform rental/laundry service and for repayment of advances of vacation time or paid time off.  Remember, even if you do not make any changes, you must still obtain approval to use these forms!
  2. Include language explaining to the employee how to discontinue the payroll deduction if desired.  Make clear that the employee may still be required to repay any amount owed if the deduction is stopped.  This is particularly important if you offer services to employees that will be repaid over time.  For example, a veterinary office might allow employees to purchase care for their own pets, perhaps at a discount.  If the employee stops the payroll deduction used to repay this bill, the employee can still be billed as would a regular customer, but the form should specify this to ensure there is no confusion.
  3. Submit the form to the Connecticut Department of Labor for review.  Begin deductions only after receiving approval.
  4. Make sure the forms are kept up to date with new forms completed whenever an employee’s deductions will change.  Also, if you need to change the form to add new kinds of deductions for any other reason, you will need to have the form approved again.  With this in mind, be sure to draft your form with enough flexibility for future changes, while being specific enough to obtain approval.

Like several of the other laws discussed in this series of Connecticut Employment Laws You Didn’t Know Existed, compliance is not difficult if you know the law exists.  Our team of labor and employment law attorneys can educate you about the laws affecting your company and help ensure you are in compliance.

This is Part 2 in a 6-part series on Connecticut Employment Laws You Didn’t Know Existed

Many employers are unaware of a Connecticut employment law essentially requiring offer letters.  Employers must, at the time of hiring, advise employees as to their rate of pay, hours of employment, and wage payment schedule.  The statute also requires employers to make available policies and practices related to wages, vacation pay, sick leave, health and welfare benefits, and comparable matters.  This can be done in writing or through posted notices.  If these policies change, employees must be notified in writing or through posted notices.

Now that you know about these requirements, how do you comply?  It is not difficult to comply with this statute, but many employers, particularly small ones, take a casual approach to hiring and do not put these employment terms in writing.  In a simple offer letter, set out the employee’s start date, position, rate of pay, work schedule, payment schedule (the day of the week, whether bi-weekly or weekly, etc.), and any benefits you wish to emphasize.  While these are not all required, this letter is a useful vehicle to welcome the new employee on board and clarify the details of the employment relationship.  If the employee is at-will, it is a good idea to mention this in the offer letter as well.  Likewise, it is wise to mention that the terms set out are the current terms, but they can be modified by the employer at any time unless constrained by law or contract.

The requirement to make certain policies available to employees is easily accomplished with an employee handbook.  If any policies change, the handbook should be updated.  Some employers do not have employee handbooks.  While an employee handbook is a good idea even for small employers, if there is no handbook, you can comply with this law by creating policy statements on wages, vacation pay, sick leave, health and welfare benefits, and any comparable matters and issuing these statements to employees.

Although this law imposes some burdens on employers, and noncompliance can lead to penalties, these are steps employers should be taking anyway.  Keeping employees informed of workplace policies minimizes confusion that can be the source of employee resentment or even litigation borne out of a misunderstanding.  Our team of labor and employment attorneys would be happy to assist you in formulating written policies or assisting with any employee issue.

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.

Continue Reading Connecticut Employment Laws You Didn’t Know Existed – Why Your Bi-Weekly Payroll is Probably Illegal . . . and How to Fix It

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:

  1. The intern must receive training and the training  is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
  2. The training is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under their close observation;
  4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
  5.  The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

Continue Reading Keep Your Unpaid Intern Away From the Photocopier!

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 increase on minimum wage would have on economic growth, were able to whip up support behind the filibuster, forcing the Democratic majority to withdraw the Bill.

Immediately following the Bill’s withdrawal, President Obama expressed his disappointment and vowed to continue the push in securing the minimum wage increase, which was his primary goal in 2014.   Because the Bill was only withdrawn, the Senate may reintroduce it at any time.

As we reported earlier, Connecticut has already passed and signed a bill which will raise the State’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017.  The Bill which failed today in the United States Senate would have impacted other States where the minimum wage still follows the federal rate.

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.

Continue Reading Dept. Of Labor Settlement Highlights Importance of Proper Wage and Hour Policies

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.  

Continue Reading Obama and Labor Secretary are working to Overhaul Overtime Rules for Exempt Employees

As discussed in our previous posts, here and here, Connecticut’s new paid sick leave law went into effect on January 1, 2012.  Among its many requirements is an obligation for employers to provide adequate notice of the law to employees.  Most employers likely satisfy this requirement by displaying the notice poster created by the Department of Labor. 

Though broader issues concerning compliance continue to arise, employers should take care to observe the seemingly minor points of the law, including the requirement to display posters in English and Spanish.  The law imposes this requirement on all employers subject to the law, irrespective of the composition of their work force.

The English and Spanish posters are available on the DOL website.

 

 

The Connecticut Department of Labor (“DOL”) has released guidance concerning Public Act 11-52, the new paid sick leave law.  The DOL also released a poster that complies with the law’s notice requirement.

Both the guidance document and the poster are available on the DOL’s website

The Spanish version of the poster is forthcoming.

We provided a detailed review of the sick leave law in a post last month.

Though the guidance document does not appear to contain any major revelations, it does provide clarification of certain points and is in a format that is easier for employers to navigate that the Public Act.

 

Continue Reading DOL Releases Guidance and Poster for New Paid Sick Leave Law