Back Connecticut Labor and Employment Laws

Connecticut Labor and Employment Laws

Labor and employment laws play an important part of a civilized society. uring his introduction of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935, Senator Robert Wagner once said, “Democracy cannot work unless it is honored in the factory as well as the polling booth; men cannot truly be free in body and spirit unless their freedom extends into places where they earn their daily bread.” 

This declaration captures the essence of the various labor laws enacted during the past century. In a democracy, the principles of equality and the rule of law must be upheld, even in private contracts.

Therefore, whether you are an ordinary employee working for a Connecticut-based employer who wants to know what rights you are entitled to as an employee, or an HR professional or a legal counsel tasked to ensure that the Connecticut-based employer you are working for is compliant with labor laws to prevent exposing said employers to potential liabilities, learning about labor laws is essential. This article aims to provide you with an overview of labor laws in general, as well as laws enacted by the state of Delaware in particular. This article also provides the importance and purpose of these laws, and some frequently asked questions (FAQs).

What are the Labor Laws in Connecticut?

Connecticut employment law is a collection of state and federal labor laws. These laws include provisions for wage payment, minimum wage, child labor, and prevailing wages for state-funded construction projects.

Why are Labor Laws Important?

Boone (2015) noted that throughout the early 1900s, working conditions for the average American worker were fairly grim. Child labor was widespread, discrimination in the workplace was normalized, and working conditions were hazardous due to lack of safety regulations. Additionally, unions did not have sufficient protections from the federal government, which made it difficult for workers’ unions to bargain for improved working conditions. Thanks to social and legal shifts throughout the years, labor laws have created better conditions and rights for the American worker. 

Nonetheless, most employers today still exercise tremendous bargaining power over employees, especially at this time when employees’ collective power has dwindled over the years, with union density sitting at around 6.2% percent in the private sector.

Because of this unequal bargaining power, employers are known to have monopsony power. This means employers operate as wage setters rather than wage takers in the employment bargain. As a result, employers will tend to hire fewer workers (thereby leading to either under-employment or worse, unemployment) and those workers suffer lower pay and benefits as well as worse working conditions. Fewer workers also means that employers produce less output and can charge higher prices that harm consumers. Finally,  monopsony power also reduces economic productivity because employers are not competing over wages to lure workers into jobs that are the best match for their productivity and skills.

That is where labor laws come in. Over the course of the 20th century, federal and state laws have been enacted to address this problem of inequality of bargaining power. The aim of these federal laws are to provide social and economic rights for workers, with state laws going beyond such minimum rights by providing expanded rights and protections.

What is the Purpose of the Labor Law

Therefore, the primary purpose of labor law is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative effects arising from the unequal power wielded by employers, and the inequality of bargaining power between employers and employees. Labor laws impose certain legal requirements on employers which cannot be the subject to negotiation or bargaining with employees. This means that since these requirements are imposed by law, employers have no choice but to comply or face possible civil and/or criminal sanctions from the government.

What is an example of Labor Law in Connecticut?

One type of labor law that aims to temper the monopsony power of employers are those that prescribe minimum standards for benefits. An example of this is the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of 1.5x the regular rate of pay. FLSA also deals with how work hours are computed.

Another type of labor law that addresses monopsony power are those that impose minimum safety and health conditions in the workplace. An example of this is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which imposes on employers the general duty to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.

Labor law also governs workers’ compensation laws, which requires employers to pay compensation and medical benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or death. An example of this type of law is the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which pays compensation for the disability or death of a federal employee resulting from personal injury sustained while in the performance of duty.

There are also labor laws that aim to regulate the benefits that employees are offered as a way to ensure that the employee’s interests are being considered., There are even laws that impose upon employers the obligation to provide additional benefits to employees that go beyond their usual salary. Examples of these types of laws are the federal Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for employees, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to give unpaid but job-protected leaves to employees who need to attend to the birth or adoption of a child, or for the serious illness of the employee or their family member.

What are Rights of Employees in Connecticut?

The following are some of the rights of employees in Connecticut, as provided under Connecticut employment law and federal law:

  • Right to minimum wage
  • Right to a safe workplace
  • Right to health coverage
  • Right to social security
  • Right to unemployment benefits
  • Right to protection against discrimination
  • Right to family leave

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the minimum wage in Connecticut?

As of August 1, 2021, Connecticut’s minimum wage is $13 per hour. This is set to increase to $14 on July 1, 2022, and to $15 on June 1, 2023. As this is higher than the federal minimum wage, this rate shall apply.

These rates will also increase in the following years, starting on January 1, 2024. The rate of increase will depend on how much the employment cost index increases, as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor. The increase, however, may be suspended if the state’s gross domestic product growth experiences negative growth for two consecutive quarters.

Service employees in Connecticut are entitled to a minimum wage of $6.38, while bartenders who customarily receive tips must receive a minimum wage of $8.23 per hour.

2. May employees be entitled to a meal break that is either shorter or longer than the mandated 30-minute meal break under Connecticut labor laws?

Yes. Any employer and employee may enter into a written agreement providing for a different schedule of meal periods other than the 30-minute one required under state law.

3. How do employees become eligible for annual paid sick leave under Connecticut labor laws?

Employees earn paid sick leave based on the number of hours of work rendered. They earn one hour of paid sick leave for each forty hours of actual work rendered, up to a maximum of forty hours per year.

4. Is the paid sick leave subject to carry-over?

Yes. Each employee is entitled to carry over up to forty unused accrued hours of paid sick leave from the current year to the following year. However, an employee can only use up to forty hours of paid sick leave in a year, regardless of how many hours of accrued paid sick leave he or she has as a result of the carryover.

5. How does the Paid Family Leave and Medical Leave Insurance Program work?

It is a system established by the Connecticut government where each eligible Connecticut employee will be paid family leave that will be funded via a mandatory payroll deduction that is initially set at one-half of one percent of the employee’s wages. The fund and the program will be administered by a government entity known as the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority. The paid family leave under this program will enable employees to receive pay while they are on leave to attend to family and medical matters, such as taking care of family members with serious health conditions or attending to the birth of a child.

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