Unpaid Wages / Wage Theft
Federal and state laws protect your right to be paid for your work as an employee. Most employees must be paid Connecticuts minimum wage, which is currently $8.25 an hour, and most must be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. In addition, there are laws that guarantee the payment of commissions and of some bonuses.
Sometimes these laws even protect workers who have been treated as independent
contractors, if it is possible to show that they have been misclassified.
Even so, some employers either do not understand the law or refuse to follow it. Depending
on the violation, an employee may be able to claim unpaid wages up to two to three years
after the money was owed. Remedies can include double the amount of unpaid wages plus
payment by the employer of the employees attorney fees and costs.
Employees who are owed wages have several options, including bringing a complaint to
the Connecticut Department of Labor or filing a lawsuit in state or federal court. Call for a
consultation so we can discuss your rights and your options.’
Civil Rights at Work / Workplace Discrimination
In the 21st century, discrimination at work is still a major problem. Every employer knows there are laws against it, but many employers tolerate or encourage workplace discrimination, and some still initiate it. There are a number of different laws that address specific kinds of workplace discrimination, but in general it is illegal to take adverse action against an employee because of his or her:
Race, ethnicity, color or national origin
Sex or sexual orientation
Mental or physical disability
Religious beliefs or observance
In addition, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against or punish an employee because he or she has complained of discrimination in the workplace.
Some of the laws against workplace discrimination and retaliation have very short deadlines that an employee must follow in order to file a complaint. For example, complaints of employment discrimination must be made with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) within 180 days of the discriminatory event.
Dont wait until the last minute to find out what your rights are! Call for a consultation.
Free Speech at Work
Most of us think of our right to free speech as something that comes from the First Amendment to the Constitution. However, the First Amendment only applies to actions by the government, so unless you are a public employee (working for a school board, a city or town, or the State of Connecticut), the First Amendment does not apply to what you say at work. However, Connecticut has a law (called by its place in the Connecticut General Statutes, 31-51q) that says:
Any employer, including the state and any instrumentality or political subdivision thereof, who subjects any employee to discipline or discharge on account of the exercise by such employee of rights guaranteed by the first amendment to the United States Constitution or section 3, 4 or 14 of article first of the Constitution of the state, provided such activity does not substantially or materially interfere with the employees bona fide job performance or the working relationship between the employee and the employer, shall be liable to such employee for damages caused by such discipline or discharge, including punitive damages, and for reasonable attorneys fees as part of the costs of any such action for damages. If the court determines that such action for damages was brought without substantial justification, the court may award costs and reasonable attorneys fees to the employer.
This law has been read by courts to give most private sector employees many of the same rights that a public employee has under the First Amendment.
In addition, there are other times when an employer cannot lawfully punish you for your speech, including when you refuse an illegal order from a supervisor, report violations of the law by your employer, or when you get together with co-workers to complain about working conditions.
If you feel that you have been punished by your employer for expressing an opinion or speaking out on an important issue, consulting an attorney with experience in employment law matters is the best way to find out if you have a remedy.
Free Speech in the Community
Most of my practice is employment law. However, I also represent people suffering violations of their civil liberties. The U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to speak out, to assemble with others who share your views, and to make your grievances known. The First Amendment is supposed to protect your free speech whether you are handing out flyers, participating in a protest march, or wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it. In recent years we have seen courts uphold some restrictions on free speech, especially against young people. I believe strongly that we have to act to protect our First Amendment rights.
If you or your organization feel that your rights are threatened, you may want to call to arrange a consult. I am also available to give talks and provide trainings on civil liberties issues for community organizations.