While a small state, over one and a half million people are employed in Connecticut, a number that has been increasing in recent years, especially in the education and health services sector. In particular, Hartford and New Haven have thriving labor markets. Connecticut employment law protects these workers, ensuring that both the employer and the employee benefit from work relationships. If you are starting or currently run a Connecticut-based business, you must be sure to check all relevant employment laws and carefully comply. An employment lawyer from Priori's vetted network can help you do this successfully.
Connecticut Employee Compensation and Benefits
All employers in Connecticut must carefully comply with compensation and benefits laws or risk costly sanctions.
Connecticut Wages and the FLSA
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes fair working conditions within the United States, dictating fair wages, payment processes, and workplace conditions. The FLSA makes child labor and uncompensated furloughs, as well as other unfair labor practices illegal. This law also ensures that overtime must be compensated better, so all hourly employees who work over 40 hours in a single week earn time and a half on the additional hours.
The FLSA also establishes the federal minimum wage, which is currently set at $7.25 per hour. Under Connecticut law, however, the minimum wage is set at $9.60 per hour. There are some exceptions, though. Minors in Connecticut may be paid 85% of the minimum wage for the first 200 hours. Service employees who receive tips may be compensated at at $6.07 per hour (or $7.82 per hour for bartenders), so long as the tips bring the hourly pay up to at least the Connecticut minimum wage.
Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, all businesses employing at least 50 people must provide health insurance to employees who work at least 30 hours per week and their dependents or face a penalty. While Connecticut law does not require small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to purchase insurance, the Small Business Health Options Program in Connecticut does offer lower cost programs and tax incentives for small business owners who provide health insurance regardless.
Connecticut law requires any employees who work for at least 7.5 consecutive hours to be given an unpaid 30 minute meal period. Any mothers who are breastfeeding must be given reasonable accommodations to use meal breaks to express milk. In addition, workers not entitled to meal breaks should be given breastfeeding breaks if they can be reasonably accommodated.
Paid and Unpaid Leave
Connecticut’s unpaid sick leave law entitles all part-time and full-time employees of companies with at least 50 employees to earn at least five days of paid sick leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide full-time employees with an additional twelve weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons, such as personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child. While not required by law, many Connecticut companies also provide some additional paid vacation.
Hiring and Termination
Hiring and termination may not be subject to many state laws, but Connecticut employers must be careful to carefully follow fair, established procedures or face harsh consequences. The best way that you can ensure compliance is by drafting a clear handbook and putting in place checks and balances that ensure established procedures are strictly followed.
All jobs in Connecticut are assumed to be “at-will” employment. Both employers and employees can terminate the relationship at any time for almost any reason, so long as the termination process follows employee handbook procedures. Employers are also within their rights to cut hours, change job duties, lower pay, or reduce benefits.
A limited number of Connecticut employment contracts are not at-will. Many such jobs are often associated with union employment or contract work. Terminated employees are not owed severance in Connecticut beyond the remaining paycheck and compensation for any unpaid vacation days. The exception to this is in the case of widespread layoff in which case companies owe terminated employees proper notice and limited severance.
Unemployment Insurance and Benefits
Every private employer who has at least one employee must pay unemployment insurance. To do this, companies must file an Employer Status Report with the Connecticut Department of Labor.
After being dismissed, employees who were fired due to no fault of their own can collect unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, companies with at least 20 employees must be offered continued health insurance coverage for 18 months after dismissal under federal COBRA laws, as well as an additional 12 months under Public Act 10-13. The same continued coverage is extended to employees of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees under Connecticut State Continuation for 30 months.
Worker Protections In Connecticut
Connecticut employment law ensures all employees are extended certain worker protections. It is the duty of each employer to comply with all regulations protecting worker wellbeing.
Any sole proprietorship or a single member LLC with employees in Connecticut must purchase private workers’ compensation insurance. If your company is organized as a corporation, multi-member LLC, LLP, limited partnership, or general partnership, you are automatically assumed to need workers’ compensation insurance, although you can file for an exemption with the State of Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission if you truly have no employees.
If an employee has been injured on the job, they have the right to file a claim for compensation for treatment and wages during approved recovery days. As an employer, you cannot penalize employees for taking time off for recovery and treatments that have been assessed as a legitimate claim by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Laws
Workplace harassment and discrimination based on race, creed, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, military service, disability, martial status, HIV status, or other protected classification is illegal in Connecticut. Companies have a responsibility to encourage a harassment-free workplace environment. This must include a process for reporting discriminatory or harassing conduct, including a means to stop the behavior when it is reported. Failure to address harassment in the workplace can lead to employee complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if your company employs more than 15 people—and ultimately possible sanctions.
Workplace Health and Safety
Connecticut is a "state-plan" state for workplace health and safety standards that apply to public employees, but federal regulations apply to all private companies. All relevant regulations are established under OHSA. Still, CONN-OSHA does have ultimate jurisdiction in the state. Health and safety regulations applicable to your company will vary depending on your industry, area, and size, so be sure to check with CONN-OSHA or a Connecticut employment lawyer for more information about compliance.
Can a Connecticut employer ask prospective hires to disclose a criminal conviction?
Yes, but it is illegal to use such information in a discriminatory manner. It’s important to note that all employment questionnaires that inquire about criminal record must include a disclosure that arrests and convictions as a juvenile or that have been struck from public record do not have to be disclosed.
Do certain cities in Connecticut have stronger employment laws?
No matter whether your startup is located in New Haven, Stamford, or Norwich, your company will generally be subject to the same employment laws. Nonetheless, certain districts apply additional laws and stricter minimum wages. It may help to discuss all these differences with a Connecticut employment lawyer.