Although the topic of Connecticut overtime pay may seem straightforward at first glance, the law has nuances that can make a difference both in a worker’s paycheck and in his or her quality of life on the job.
A question that often arises pertains to employee rights when it comes to breaks. Contrary to common belief (and common sense), Connecticut employment laws do not require employers to provide employees with coffee breaks. So, for example, if you work in retail and start your shift at 7:00 a.m., your employer doesn’t have to give you a break at 10:00 a.m.
Indeed, the only break a Connecticut employer is required to give an employee is a meal break – and that is mandated only if an employee works at least seven and a half hours. In other words, if your shift is from 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (or later), you are entitled to a 30-minute meal break. According to Connecticut employment laws, you must get a 30-minute consecutive break (as opposed to two 15-minute breaks). Furthermore, that meal break can’t occur during the first two hours of your shift or the last two hours of your shift.
However, Connecticut employment laws do make some exceptions. For example, if you’re a certified teacher who works with children, the meal break requirement doesn’t apply to you. The same is true if you work for an employer with fewer than five employees on a single shift, if you’re the only person who is qualified to do a job, or if a meal break would endanger public safety. Finally, Connecticut employment laws say that employers aren’t required to provide you with a meal break if the company already provides 30 total minutes of paid breaks during the work period.
Another question that arises has to do with whether or not an employer is required to pay an employee for breaks and meal breaks. According to federal law, employers aren’t required to provide short breaks (5 to 20 minutes) during the workday, but if breaks are provided, they must be paid. On the other hand, meal breaks do not have to be paid – unless work is performed during the so-called break. So, for example, if your employer expects you to eat lunch at your desk and answer the phone when it rings, you are entitled to be paid. Another example is a utility company worker who eats while driving from one jobsite to another. That worker is not getting a meal period, and thus should be paid.
If you believe you’re owed pay for breaks or meal breaks, you should contact an employment lawyer. If you have a case, an employment lawyer can help you recover twice the amount of back pay you’re owed, plus attorney fees and court costs.