The state Department of Labor recovered just more than $6.1 million in unpaid wages owed to Connecticut workers during the recently ended fiscal year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced this week.
“The working women and men who are the backbone of our state should get paid for the jobs they do and receive the wages they rightfully earn,” the governor said in a statement. The money collected by the Department of Labor, he added, “reflects the importance we place on protecting our state’s workforce, as well as law-abiding employers.”
In all, the department recovered $6,136,111 in unpaid wages during the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
Of that, about $1.5 million was recovered through wage enforcement staff at the Department of Labor responding to more than 2,300 complaints about owed wages. Another $788,000 was recovered for workers who were not paid minimum wage or overtime as they should have been, and about $1.6 million was recovered for workers paid the wrong amount while working at public contract construction sites, according to the department.
“It is especially important to realize the importance of ensuring that all of our laws — be it those pertaining to minimum wage, overtime, or child labor — are understood and followed,” Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer said in a statement.
Wages are recovered in accordance with state law, typically after officials are made aware of violations through employee complaints.
The amount of wages recovered in the most recent fiscal year was in line with the last few years’ totals. More than $6.5 million was recovered both last year and in 2013, and the department recovered slightly more than $5.5 million in 2012.
In addition to recovering the $6.1 million in wages this past year, the state Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division investigated 253 cases involving labor law violations, according to state officials.
Many of those violations pertained to minors in the workplace. Inspectors cited employers for: personnel file violations, permitting minors to work at night in manufacturing and mechanical businesses, improper work hours for minors, hazardous employment of minors, and minors working in prohibited jobs, among others, state officials said.
The division issued 164 stop work orders during the most recent fiscal year. After on-site inspections, employers that were cited were mandated to stop work on certain construction projects until required regulations were met, according to state officials. In some of those cases, employers misrepresented workers as independent contractors, which could cause “economic disadvantages” to other companies, according to officials.
Misclassifying employers as independent contractors can strip them of their rights to benefits like medical insurance, pensions and medical leave, as well as workers’ compensation and other benefits with monetary value.
“As our economy continues to grow, Connecticut’s expanding workforce must be able to trust that their talent and expertise are a priority and will be protected,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said.
The Department of Labor’s website has resources for both employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to state and federal wage laws.