Employment Law Attorneys
10 Things You Should Know About Employment in Connecticut

10 Things You Should Know About Employment in Connecticut

If you work in Connecticut, there are facts you need to know about when it comes to your employment rights. In this post we’ll cover the top 10 things you need to know as an employee in CT.

1. Employers Can Give Bad References, Just Not False Ones

Employers no longer give references for former employees, so stop worrying.  Employers fear being sued for defamation or claims for negligent hire. The majority if not all employers will provide prospective employers and their recruiters with your dates of employment, position, and possibly salary. The employer will not provide the reason(s) for termination.  However, if you hear your former employer said they would not recommend for rehire, that is code language that you are a poor employee. The only exception I can think of is if you and your employer are FINRA registered members, i.e. brokerages and licensed employees in the financial industry.  FINRA regulated employers are required to provide the reason for termination in the employee’s U-5 record.

2. Connecticut Employees Allowed 16 Weeks Unpaid FMLA Leave

Under the Connecticut Family Leave Act, employees are entitled to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave. Connecticut law provides for an additional 4 weeks on top of the federal FMLA (12).  Employees should ask there employers if they have short term disability benefits to coincide with the 16 weeks of leave.  A typical STD plan provides for six months of paid leave at 60% of the employees base pay. Nothing is guaranteed, and the employer will not volunteer the information. Employees in need of a leave of absence must self-advocate for their rights and document all their requests in writing. Remember, your job is protected during the FMLA, but if you fail to return before your leave ends, you will lose your job.

3. Connecticut Employees Have a Right to Personnel Files

Connecticut employees are entitled to a complete and accurate copy of their personnel files, including a copy of their supervisor’s version of their file.  All the employee has to do is make a written request via email to the HR department and the employer must provide a copy of the file within 30 days.  If the employer refuses, please contact the CT Department of Labor and register a complaint.

4. An Unfair Employment Termination is Not Necessarily Illegal

Listen, employers can be really mean and behave in very unfriendly ways. However, just because the employer is a pain in the butt and trying to make your life miserable, this does not mean the employer’s actions are illegal.  Employers do not care about employees, so get over it. Your job cannot be your identity.  You are an “at will” employee and you should never assume your job is secure, even if you worked for the company for 10 years.  In order to determine if your employer’s action to terminate you were illegal, you would need to speak to our employment attorneys.  A quick 15 minute call to our office will flesh out the legal issues and permit us to determine if you were fired unlawfully.

5. Independent Contractors Have Rights Too

You may not know it, but if you are an independent contractor you are still protected against unlawful employment actions such as discrimination.  You should also investigate if your employer is correctly classifying you as an independent contractor (IRS Form 1099) or regular employee (IRS Form W-2). We see a lot of employees misclassified as independent contractors when they should be regular workers. Employees fear challenging the employer on this classification because they believe they will lose their contract.  If you are in doubt, call the CT Department of Labor or call our office to speak with an employment attorney.  Also search the internet in Connecticut for the “ABC Test for Independent Contractors.” You can also search the IRS.gov website for the same information.

6. The Legal Effect of Quitting Your Job

Don’t ever quit your job!  You cannot collect unemployment benefits.  Also, it is too difficult to prove your voluntary job termination was a “constructive discharge”. The facts must show a series of recent events that violate state and federal law and that any reasonable person would also quit.  If you are in a tight bind where your employer is giving you the writing on the wall treatment to get out, speak to an employment attorney in our office first.  We will deter you from quitting and will advise you to leave your job through the signing of a separation agreement which includes a severance payment for your service with the company as a result of unlawful treatment.

7. Employees with Criminal Records Are Protected

Under Connecticut law, employers cannot refuse to hire or terminate an employee because of a criminal record. Obviously, each case is different, so you will need to contact an employment attorney in our office to figure out if you are protected.

8. You May Have a Legal Right to Severance Pay

Employees employed in Connecticut may have a legal right to severance pay.  If the employer maintains a severance plan governed by ERISA (federal regulation), employees working in Connecticut are considered participants and entitled to severance pay pursuant to the plan document.  The one condition to receive severance pay set forth in every ERISA severance plan is that the employee must signed a general release of claims.  How do you know you company has a severance plan? You can check your internal human resource portal or employee handbook.  All ERISA severance plans have to be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.  Years ago I found this free website where you can research your employer. Insert the employer’s name in the site and go through the various plans listed. You are looking for a plan labeled with the word “severance” in it.  The plan severance plan code is “4i”.  If you find it listed, then you know a severance plan exists. Once you have identified your employer’s severance plan, make a written request to the Human Resources Department for a copy of the severance plan.  The HR Department has a legal obligation to provide a copy of the severance plan within 30 days of your written request.  You will find in the plan the amount of severance pay based on your years of service with the employer.  Don’t leave money on the table, but chances are the employer will remind you about your benefits, as they have a fiduciary obligation to you as a plan participant.  If you need a severance attorney, call our office and speak with one of our employment attorneys.

9. How to Predict When You Are Getting Fired

Hmmm, try your gut instinct.  Are you getting the awful feeling that your boss and coworkers have turned on you?  You may have been a satisfactory performer last year, but this year your rating sunk or needs improvement.  Or, you made a complaint to your supervisor or HR about your wages or unlawful discriminatory treatment, and suddenly your once friendly work place is not so friendly.  Maybe you just announced you are four months pregnant and you are getting the cold shoulder.  Worse, your supervisor makes pregnancy related comments and jokes.  Finally, if your coworkers and/or supervisors are openly hostile with you and use derogatory language directed at your gender, sexual orientation, race or age, then you know the crap just hit the fan and you need to speak to one of our employment attorneys.

10. Don’t Sign Anything When You Get Fired

Isn’t this obvious?  You should never sign anything when you leave your job. You should also not participate in any exit interview with the HR Department. No state or federal law mandates your participation in the exit interview.  What you need to do is speak with an employment attorney in our office who will figure out if the termination was lawful and whether the employer acted unlawfully prior to the termination date, i.e. demotions, discrimination, etc.

If anything mentioned above sounds like your current situation, or if you find yourself there in the future, Carey & Associates, P.C. can help! Our firm specializes in employment, wrongful termination, discrimination, whistleblowing, and more.

Contact us now!

Are Women Unequal in the Workplace?

Are Women Unequal in the Workplace?

It’s a fact, in the workplace women are seen as unequal. Of course no sane male employee will admit that to you. This is not because he would be politically incorrect in making such a remark, but because of some weird and nondescript force or code (man-code) he feels compelled to adhere to at all costs. (I obviously do not share in this dysfunction).  This phenomenon is real and has a tight hold on the U.S. workforce.  Yes, I could use the word gender discrimination or some similar phrase like unequal pay, but those concepts do not shed light on how to overcome the inequality. Those terms only equate to engaging in litigation, which is a slow, emotionally draining and a financially devastating road to follow.

Focus on pretty woman with colleagues talking in background

At the heart of the pay gap/promotion issue lies two socially inherent obstacles, bias and fear. Men hold the bias, most likely nurtured in them via family upbringing and culture. The bias is simple, men are better than women and thus should be paid more.  This bias is real as represented in the statistics mentioned below.  And women hold the fear, equally nurtured via family upbringing and culture.  Women fear challenging men to get what they deserve.  This is not to say that all men and all women hold these same characteristics, but enough of them do given the current statistics below.

On a positive note, the pay inequality issue may be transforming on its own.  According to the BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/)), in 2012 women earned 81% of the median wages of men. I presume this applies to working women of all ages up to retirement age.  However, the pay gap is smaller for younger women in the age range of 25-34 where the current ratio is 90%+.  For women in the age range of 45-54, the ratio is 75%, representing a possible age biased toward an older generation of female employees.  The BLS numbers indicate the gender income inequality issue may have a strong generational variable, where younger working women encounter less income inequality in comparison to men.  Pregnancy may play a lesser role in this younger generation, as the CDC reports that the mean age of women experiencing a first time birth is 26. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm) Previous income inequality explanations suggested pregnancy was one of the main culprits, but that appears to be changing. More women are working in the U.S. workforce than ever before, nearly 47% of the workforce is composed of women, and this number is projected to exceed 51% by 2018. (This information is based on 2010 data).  (http://www.dol.gov/wb/factsheets/Qf-laborforce-10.htm).  My opinion is that women should be paid 100% in comparison to men.

Women need a workable solution, not more statistics or more calls to action during the academy awards, which only draws more attention but does not solve the problem.   I have worked with or represented many women either in consultative employment counseling, litigating discrimination cases or contract severance negotiations.  I have mentally collected these work experiences and have some simple yet straight forward solutions to solve the gender pay gap.

Men need to promote more woman based on their performance, not their gender. I am confident women will feel appreciated and incentivized to improve the company bottom line.  That’s what women tell me.

Men need to pay women more based on their performance, not their gender, even if it means paying a wage equal to or higher than those paid to similarly qualified men.  I am confident women will feel appreciated and incentivized to improve the company bottom line.  Again, this is what women tell me.

And, everyone, men and women alike, should be allowed to work a flexible work schedule, which increases employee motivation and production quality for the real work companies want performed.  In my office, we have a flexible work schedule and the work is completed in a timely fashion and everyone, including myself, is happier! The stale and stringent 9-5 work hours needs to be tossed out the window. I have heard too many complaints over the years by clients regarding ridiculous and inflexible work schedules enforced by poorly managed (some FORTUNE 500) companies.

Women need to aggressively self-advocate for promotion and salary increases even at the risk of creating an impenetrable glass ceiling or worse losing their jobs.  Your employment (either at-will or term) is a contract that is constantly being renegotiated every day.  If you do not ask, you will not receive.  By professionally demanding a salary increase and promotion, you force your employer to tell you how they really feel about you and your performance.  If they say no, move on to a company that does appreciate your skills, experience and knowledge.

The bottom line is to become more proactive, assertive and never fear the negotiation to get what you deserve, instead embrace it. This applies equally to us all.

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