If you’re a recent graduate about to enter the workforce for the first time, there’s an entire world of opportunity before you. We want to congratulate you on your achievements, but also prepare you with the legal knowledge you need to protect your rights. There are some recent updates to Connecticut and federal employment laws that you should know about. If you have questions about the legal protections that apply to you as an employee, reach out to Stanfield Bechtel Law.
Minimum wage: $15.00/hour
While the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour, many state and local governments have decided to increase their own minimum wages. Any time there is a difference between the state and federal minimum wage, the state rate prevails.
On June 1, 2023, Connecticut’s minimum wage was raised to $15.00/hour. This means that any overtime you earn (which is also known as time and a half, since it must be at least 1.5 times an employee’s regular hourly rate) must be paid at the rate of $22.50 per hour. Employers devise many schemes for cheating employees out of their fair wages, such as:
- Requiring employees to do unpaid work before or after shifts
- Automatic meal breaks even though the employee is not relieved of work duties
- Misclassifying workers as exempt (exemptions exist but they are strictly defined and inapplicable to most hourly workers)
- Misclassifying workers as independent contractors
Changes to prevailing wage law
You may work in an industry subject to prevailing wages, which is common with public works projects. As defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, the prevailing wage rate is the average wage that is paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in a certain geographic area.
Connecticut’s prevailing wage law was recently amended to extend coverage to contractors who provide “security services.” Starting October 1, 2023, the new legislation also requires contractors to follow standard wage rates and to make necessary adjustments annually. The law also enhances enforcement provisions by allowing aggrieved employees to bring civil actions in Superior Court.
Workers’ compensation for PTSD
The workers’ compensation law was revised on June 5, 2023, to expand the definition of “employee.” This redefinition allows nearly all workers, not just first responders, to claim workers’ comp benefits for certain events that are associated with post-traumatic stress injuries. The law also aligns the legal recovery options for employees with those that are already available to first responders.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault
At the federal level, the Speak Out Act went into effect at the end of last year. The law prohibits courts from enforcing nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses, with respect to sexual harassment and sexual assault disputes, when said clauses are entered into before the dispute arose. This law applies to claims that were filed on or after December 7, 2022.
The legislation is a reflection of ongoing efforts to prevent sexual assault and abuse in the workplace. In passing the law, Congress noted that there is pervasive sexual harassment and assault due in part to the prevalence of nondisclosure and non-disparagement terms in employment agreements. The law therefore limits the use of these clauses.
Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP”) Act
Another federal law protects nursing mothers in the workplace. The PUMP Act revises the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide more lactation accommodations for nursing mothers.
The 2023 federal omnibus spending law also included the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (“PUMP” Act). This new law expands existing lactation accommodations for nursing mothers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employers were already required, under prior FLSA updates, to provide reasonable break time and a private place (besides a bathroom) for nursing mothers to express breast milk for one year after a child’s birth. The PUMP Act broadens these accommodations to include exempt, as well as non-exempt, workers. The employee must be completely relieved from work duties, and if not, the time spent breastfeeding must be counted as hours worked. There is an exception to the law for small employers.
Here to Advise You of Your Rights
New graduates will face many challenges as they begin their careers. We’re here to help with any legal issues you may encounter. If you have questions about the above employment law revisions or your rights in general, call Stanfield Bechtel Law today.