More than 180 stop work orders issued for noncompliance with worker's comp requirements

The Connecticut Department of Labor's Division of Wage and Workplace Standards recovered more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages for Connecticut workers during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.

According to Connecticut Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer, the $6,544,707 returned to workers also included nearly $900,000 for employees that did not receive minimum wage or overtime, and another $1.9 million owed to workers that were not paid the correct amount while working at public contract construction sites. Additionally, approximately $35,000 was recovered for 34 service workers hired by private contractors who were not paid the correct wages.

The Connecticut Labor Department's Wage and Workplace Standards Division also investigated 388 cases involving labor law violations, with inspectors citing employers in the following areas: personnel file violations, permitting night work of minors in manufacturing and mechanical businesses, the improper work hours of minors, hazardous employment of minors, and minors working in prohibited jobs, among other violations.

In fiscal year 2012, the agency returned $5.5 million to workers, while in 2011, the amount recovered amounted to $6 million.

In addition, a total of 181 Stop Work Orders were issued to employers who did not comply with Worker's Compensation requirements. Following on-site investigations, these companies were required to cease work on a construction project until certain required workplace regulations were met. In some cases, it was determined that employers misrepresented employees as independent contractors--a practice that causes an economic disadvantage to other companies.

According to Gary K. Pechie, Director of the agency's Division of Wage and Workplace Standards, the wages were recovered in accordance with General Statutes Title 31, Chapter 557, Part III, and Chapter 558. He also noted that the agency's website offers an extensive amount of information geared toward educating employers and workers about their rights and responsibilities in regard to state and federal wage laws.

Call First, Avoid Paying Later

"Amounts recovered each year are relatively consistent from year to year, and uniformly high," says CBIA's HR counsel Mark Soycher. "This suggests that employers continue to either flaunt the law and/or remain ignorant of compliance obligations. If it is due to the former, there is no excuse; if the latter, as a Labor Department investigator said once, 'If you are smart enough to be in business, you are smart enough to figure it out. No excuses!'

"With significant amounts awarded to workers for violations in areas of basic compliance such as unpaid wages, minimum wage, overtime, and child labor restrictions, employers need to pay attention to the fundamentals. No one disputes that the law can be complicated, sometimes inconsistent, even seemingly irrational. But when in doubt, all it takes is a phone call to get an answer, either to CBIA's HR Hotline (860.244.1900) or the Connecticut Department of Labor (860.263.6000). The alternative? Ignore the uncertainty, wait for that dreaded call or correspondence advising you a wage claim has been filed against your company, and learn after the fact that you are not in compliance, likely costing multiples of what you hoped to save."