As an employee in Connecticut, you are protected by federal and state laws throughout the employment process, from hiring through the end of your relationship with your employer. Below, we explain some of the laws that apply to Connecticut employees.
Connecticut Laws Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment
Under federal law, employers may not make employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law).
These laws prohibit discrimination in every aspect of employment, from job postings, interviews, and hiring decisions to promotions, benefits, pay, discipline, performance reviews, layoffs, and firing. For detailed information on the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.
Connecticut law also protects employees from discrimination based on these traits. In addition, employees in Connecticut are protected from discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. Connecticut employers must comply with these laws if they have at least three employees. The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights enforces these laws and takes complaints of discrimination and harassment.
Workplace harassment based on any of these traits is also illegal. From a legal perspective, harassment is unwelcome workplace conduct or comments, based on the target’s protected characteristic, that creates a hostile work environment or that the target must endure as a condition of getting or keeping the job. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on race, disability, and other protected traits.
Your employer may not retaliate against you for complaining of discrimination or harassment. Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights), or in a lawsuit.
Workplace Safety Laws in Connecticut
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace, free of known hazards. This law applies in all states, including Connecticut. Employers must provide safe working conditions, including the training and safety equipment necessary for the type of work you do.
Employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they believe their employer has committed safety violations. Your employer may not retaliate against you for complaining about unsafe working conditions.
Workers’ Compensation in Connecticut
If you suffer an on-the-job injury, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Connecticut employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.
Connecticut Wage and Hour Laws
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Connecticut law set the wage and hour standards employers must follow, including the minimum wage, overtime, and other wage laws. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. For 2016, Connecticut employers must pay employees at least $9.60 an hour; in 2017, this amount increases to $10.10. Both of these amounts are higher than the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25. Therefore, Connecticut employers must pay at least the state minimum wage.
Under the FLSA and Connecticut law, employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fall within an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime.
Learn more about Connecticut wage and overtime rules at the website of the Connecticut Labor Department. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor.
Your Right to Time Off Work in Connecticut
Many employers voluntarily offer their employees paid leave, such as vacation time, sick days, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. In most states, this time off is completely discretionary. In Connecticut, however, employees are entitled to take paid sick leave. In addition, employees have the right to take unpaid leave in a variety of circumstances.
Paid Sick Leave
Connecticut employers with at least 50 employees must provide paid time off to employees who work in the service industry. These employees are entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work, up to 40 hours of leave per year. Sick leave is available both for the employee’s own illness and to care for a family member.
In Connecticut, employers must offer unpaid leave for:
- Family and medical leave. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers with at least 50 employees must give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness, bonding with a new child, and caregiving. Connecticut requires employers with at least 75 employees to give eligible employees up to 16 weeks off every two years for similar reasons.
- Pregnancy disability leave. Connecticut law requires employers with at least three employees to allow employees to take a reasonable period of leave while they are temporarily disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions.
- Military family leave. An employee may use the federal FMLA to take time off to handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s deployment or military service. And, under both Connecticut and federal law, employers must give eligible employees up to 26 weeks off in a single year to care for a family member who suffers a serious injury on active military duty.
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Connecticut military leave law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service. Connecticut law also gives employees who are members of the state’s armed forces to take leave for required duties, including drills and training.
- Jury duty. Connecticut employers must also allow employees to take time off work for jury service. Employees must be paid for the first five days of jury duty. And, employees may not be required to work on any day when they spend eight or more hours on jury duty.
Job Termination in Connecticut
Connecticut employees generally work at will. This means they can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about illegal discrimination or filing a wage claim for unpaid overtime.
If you are laid off or otherwise lose your job through no fault of your own (for example, you are not fired for serious misconduct and you don’t quit voluntarily), you may qualify for unemployment benefits in Connecticut. Once you start receiving benefits, you will have to search for work to continue receiving them. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for 26 weeks while you are looking for a new job.
Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you may have the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. However, you will have to pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay), plus up to 2% of that amount for administrative costs. You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you have questions about your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Connecticut employment lawyer.