This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format. To dive deeper on any element of this topic, use the links in the story.
If you worked for a Connecticut employer and weren’t paid for your time, you may be able to file a wage complaint.
Wage theft occurs in Connecticut — and though the exact amount of stolen wages is unknown, some insight can be gleaned from complaints filed by workers to the departments of labor at both the state and federal levels, which investigate these complaints and can order employers to pay back wages.
The U.S. Department of Labor determined that Connecticut employers owed workers more than $10.3 million from January 2012 to April 2023. From 2019 through 2022, the Connecticut Department of Labor ordered employers to pay almost $17 million in stolen wages after investigations.
Are you unsure what you can do about your own experience of wage theft? Here’s what to know.
Where can I submit a wage theft claim?
Workers can file wage complaints with the departments of labor at both the state and federal levels, which investigate these filings. If a violation is found, employers can be ordered to pay back wages or receive financial penalties.
To file a wage theft complaint with the Connecticut Department of Labor, click here.
To file a wage theft complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, click here.
Lawsuits are also suitable depending on the nature of the case, but it’s recommended to speak with an attorney for legal help before doing so.
Who can submit a wage theft complaint?
Anybody, regardless of immigration status, can submit a complaint to the state or federal departments of labor if they believe they aren’t being paid the federal minimum wage, overtime or did not receive any other legally binding payment.
How long do I have to submit a wage theft claim?
If filing with the U.S. Department of Labor or seeking court relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act, complainants have two years to submit a claim in cases of accidental violations or three years for intentional violations. If filing with the Connecticut Department of Labor or seeking court relief under Connecticut wage and hour law, complainants have two years, regardless of if the violation was intentional or not.
How long does a wage theft claim take to process?
The state Department of Labor is experiencing a four- to six- month backlog of cases.
As of March 2023, there were 1,176 cases in various stages of investigation assigned to a staff of 24, and also 800 cases yet to be assigned to staff. Part of the backlog is due to an increased number of wage complaints received every year.
Should I submit my wage theft complaint to the state or federal department of labor?
In some cases, it can be more beneficial to the worker to file with the state. For example, if somebody is getting paid only $12 an hour, they wouldn’t be able to file with the U.S. Department of Labor since the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but the state minimum wage is $15 as of June 1, 2023, so a claim with the state’s Department of Labor would be appropriate.
And if someone is getting paid below the federal minimum wage, although filing with either is appropriate, it could be better to file with the state since more can be recovered since the state minimum wage is higher.
Additionally, the amount of the wage claim can dictate where a claim should be submitted. The Connecticut Department of Labor ends up handling lots of cases that sometimes involve very small amounts of money.
What claims does the federal department deal with?
The U.S. Department of Labor will deal with claims related only to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulates things such as the federal minimum wage and overtime pay.
What claims does the state department deal with?
The Connecticut labor department takes in wage claims similar to the federal department but expands the range of claims to include any non-payment of wages such as not receiving a paycheck, bonuses or commission.
At the state level, one can only recover wages for up to two years from the moment a claim is filed, regardless of the employer’s intention.