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Jun
2015
29

CT Gov Signs Law Making Employers Pay Back Double the Wages They Steal

CT Gov. Malloy

CT Gov. Malloy


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A Connecticut law was signed by Governor Dan Malloy last week which will require employers to pay double damages when a court finds them guilty of wage theft.  Previously, this was allowable under Connecticut law but was left to the discretion of the court. 

The law allows an exception to the double penalty if an employer can prove that it was attempting to correctly pay an employee in good faith.  An analysis of Senate Bill 914 comes from the website Connecticut Human Resources:

With one exception, this bill requires, rather than allows, a court to award double damages plus court costs and attorney’s fees if it finds that an employer failed to (1) pay an employee’s wages, accrued fringe benefits, or arbitration award or (2) meet the law’s requirements for an employee’s minimum wage or overtime rates.

Under the bill, the double-damage requirement does not apply to employers who establish a good-faith belief that their underpayments were legal. Such employers must, however, pay full damages, plus court costs and attorney’s fees. Existing law also allows the labor commissioner to collect unpaid wages and payments or bring a civil suit on the employee’s behalf.

Connecticut has a good track record over the past half decade regarding wage theft.  In late 2012 the state made waves when the Wage and Workplace Standards Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor announced that it had collected nearly $5.5 million in unpaid wages over the past fiscal year.

Now the state’s wage theft recovery efforts get even sharper teeth.  In a recent op-ed, lawyer James Bhandary-Alexander called for support of SB 914, which he labeled a “major step in curtailing wage theft”:

In this volatile economy it is important to recognize the vast majority of employers who are doing the right thing and that includes lawful and fair treatment of their employees. However, businesses that choose to put their own profit above the legitimate rights of their employees, should be held accountable. Honest businesses who pay their employees what they earn should not have to compete with those who break the law.

Getting paid for your work is one of the most basic rights in the American system. The minimum wage doesn’t mean much if it is not actually paid.  Every year our Department of Labor hears from thousands of employees who are being paid less than minimum wage, not being paid at all, not paid overtime or have had their tips stolen. In April 2015 alone (the most recent data available), 270 complaints were received by the Wage and Workplace Division.

Connecticut law is currently too weak to deter wage theft – employers are often only required to pay back what they were supposed to have paid in the first place with no penalty.  This is no deterrent at all.

Fortifying penalties on employers who ignore the law strengthens working families, law-abiding businesses and our economy.

The new law goes into effect October 1st.

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