What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Connecticut?

Learn how to calculate what you're owed in unpaid wages and penalties in Connecticut.

In Connecticut, federal and state law determine when and how much employees must be paid. If your employer has not paid you properly or in a timely fashion, you may be entitled to recover not only your unpaid wages, but also penalties intended to punish your employer for wage violations. This article explains how to calculate and claim what you are owed.

Unpaid Wages

Employees must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour they work. You are entitled to be paid the highest minimum wage that applies where you work, whether that’s the federal, state, or local rate. The minimum wage in Connecticut is $10.10 in 2017. Because this is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, you are entitled to the state minimum wage. If the city or county where you work has a higher minimum wage, you are entitled to that amount.

To calculate your unpaid minimum wage claim, take the difference between what you were actually paid per hour and what you should have been paid per hour, and then multiply that amount by the total number of hours you worked. For example, if your employer paid you the federal minimum wage rather than the state minimum for your first three weeks of full-time work in 2017, you would be entitled to an additional $2.85 ($10.10−$7.25) an hour times 120 hours (40 hours a week × 3 weeks), or $342.

If you are a hotel or restaurant employee and receive tips as part of your compensation, your employer can pay you a lower hourly wage, as long as you make enough in tips to bring your hourly earnings up to the state minimum wage. Currently, Connecticut employers may pay as little as $6.38 per hour to wait staff and $8.23 an hour to bartenders. To learn more about these rules, see Connecticut Laws for Tipped Employees.

Unpaid Overtime

Failing to pay the overtime premium is one of the most common wage violations by employers. In Connecticut, employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. While hourly, nonexempt employees have a right to overtime, other categories of employees are exempt. The most common exemptions are for outside salespeople and “white-collar” employees who do professional, managerial, and high-level administrative work (see our overtime page for more details and exemption categories). Unless your employer can prove that you fit into one of these narrow exemptions, you are entitled to receive overtime.

If your employer has failed to pay you properly for overtime hours, your unpaid wages are the difference between what you should have been paid and what you were paid. For overtime hours, employees are entitled to time-and-a-half. This means that you’re owed an extra 50% of your hourly rate, on top of your regular pay. For example, if you are usually paid $18 an hour, you should be paid $27 an hour for overtime work.

Example: Rosa usually works seven hours a day, five days a week. If Rosa works an extra hour each day, she isn’t entitled to overtime, because she has only worked a total of 40 hours for the week. However, if Rosa works two extra hours per day, she is entitled to overtime. That would bring her total hours for the week to 45, so she would be entitled to time-and-a-half for five hours of work (in addition to 40 hours at her regular rate).

Unpaid Breaks and Time Off

Federal law doesn’t require employers to let employees take meal or rest breaks during the workday. However, Connecticut law gives most employees the right to take an unpaid 30-minute meal break if they work a shift of at least seven-and-a-half hours (unless the employee receives at least this much time off in paid breaks).

If your employer provides shorter breaks, or makes you work through your meal break, you may be entitled to compensation. Under federal law, employees must be paid for:

  • any short breaks (lasting 20 minutes or less) during the workday, and
  • any time during which you must work, even if your employer calls it a break. For example, if an office receptionist must eat lunch at her desk in order to cover the phones and accept deliveries, she is entitled to be paid for that time – even if her employer calls it a “lunch break.”

To calculate your unpaid break wages, add up how much time you spent on shorter breaks that should have been paid or breaks that you had to work through. Multiply this extra time by your hourly rate. And don’t forget overtime: Breaks for which you should have been paid count as hours worked, which means they may push your total hours for the week above 40 per workweek.

Penalties for Unpaid Wages

Federal and state law give employees the right to collect penalties in addition to the wages they should have been paid, if they win their administrative claims or lawsuits. Some of these penalties are described below; additional penalties may be available under state or local law.

In Connecticut, employees have the right to collect double damages for minimum wage or overtime violations. In essence, you can be awarded twice the amount of your unpaid wages.

You can also receive double damages if your employer fails to give you your final paycheck on time. Under Connecticut law, you are entitled to receive your final paycheck within a certain amount of time. If you’re fired or laid off, your employer must provide the check on the next business day; if you quit, you must receive your final check on the next regularly scheduled payday.

Filing a Wage Claim or Lawsuit

If your employer failed to pay you all of the wages you earned, you can either file a wage complaint with the Connecticut Labor Department or file a lawsuit in court. Connecticut has posted its wage claim form online.

If you aren’t comfortable filing your own complaint or you want to go straight to court, talk to an experienced Connecticut wage and hour lawyer about representing you. A lawyer can file a wage claim on your behalf or file a lawsuit in court. If you win, your attorney can ask the judge to make your employer pay your attorneys’ fees.

Whether you plan to file a wage claim or hire an attorney to represent you, you should move quickly. In Connecticut, you have only two years to file your wage claim or lawsuit. This means that you can’t claim any wages that were due more than two years before you file your claim or lawsuit. For violations of federal law, you must file within two years, or if your employer's violations were willful, three years. A lawyer can also tell you if you have any other claims, such as a breach of contract claim, to which different time limits typically apply.

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