According to both Connecticut law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, you have the right to take your employer to court if you’re owed overtime pay. If you think you don’t have the money to hire an employment attorney, you should know that the law has what is called a “fee-shifting” provision. This means that, if you win your case, your employer will have to pay your attorney fees and court costs.
This means that a Connecticut employment lawyer typically won’t charge you any money upfront. If an employment lawyer takes your case, he or she is fairly confident that you will be able to recover money, and that the law firm will get paid.
Many consumer laws have similar fee-shifting provisions. Examples include state lemon laws and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These fee-shifting provisions were written into law because legislators recognized that the government doesn’t have the resources to enforce all of the laws on its own. Making businesses pay consumers’ and workers’ legal fees is a way to level the playing field and a way for consumers to act as private attorneys general.
But back to Connecticut overtime pay. You might be owed overtime pay because you were made to work off the clock, you were misclassified as an exempt employee, or you were misclassified as an independent contractor. There are many reasons why you might be owed overtime pay, but regardless of the reason, it pays to stand up for your rights.
Both state and federal laws say that you’re entitled to twice the amount of overtime that you’re owed. So, for example, if you worked 45 hours in a seven-day period and were paid straight time at $12 per hour, you would be owed $60 (5 hours of overtime times $6, to make it time and a half, then times two to account for both back pay and damages). But let’s say that you worked 45 hours per week at straight time for a full year. If you sued your employer for overtime pay and prevailed, you would get $3,120 ($60 times 52 weeks). Remember, you’re entitled to that money.
When you decide to take your employer to court, time is of the essence. The law has a statute of limitations, which means that the clock is ticking. You have can only recover overtime pay for the past two years (or three if the employer willfully violated the law). In other words, the sooner you file suit against your employer, the sooner you’ll be able to recover money (and the more you’ll be able to recover).