Workers in Connecticut were able to recover more than $6 million last year in unpaid wages through the Department of Labor. The bad news is that's about a million dollars less than what they received the year before, and two million less than what they collected the year before that.
Gary Pechie is the director of DOL's Wage and Workplace Standards Division. He says the tough economic climate has brought on more complaints, but there's less money from employers to go around in order to settle those complaints.
"There's a lot of anxiety in the workplace. Complaints have gotten much more complex, and employees are filing complaints for a number of issues," Pechie says. "These are people who are not represented by unions, so they come to us. We get a lot of complaints where a company doesn't pay for a few months, but people stay there because they think otherwise they'll never see a dime. Then those companies go bankrupt and close their doors."
In the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, CT DOL settled cases for about two and a half thousand workers. In years past, complaints mainly came in from the construction industry, retail, and food service. Now Pechie says he's seeing complaints from every industry, including financial firms and doctor's offices.
Of the money recouped by the DOL, $1.4 million of it was for unpaid overtime and wages below the minimum wage. Another $3.4 million came from complaints from workers who were not paid at all.
"Until the economy picks up this is what we're going to be dealing with for the time being," Pechie says. "Especially in restaurants; it's a cash business and we see a lot of people not getting their regular pay, who are just working for tips."
The Connecticut General Assembly considered a bill last year that would require employers who owed money to workers to pay twice the amount they owed. That bill passed the labor committee but eventually died in the Senate.
Daniel Schwartz runs the Connecticut Employment Law blog. He says the state already has a provision that allows employees to collect double damages in a civil hearing if it can be proven that the employer had malicious intent.
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