Hot Topics in Wage & Hour Laws

By Glenn A. Duhl, Esq. & Angelica M. Wilson, Esq.

minimum-wage_forthepeopledotcom.92110803_stdThis article addresses minimum wage increases in Connecticut as well as exemptions to federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.

Just when you updated your workplace posters, it’s time to revisit Connecticut’s minimum wage–again. On March 27, 2014, Governor Malloy signed into law a bill that increases the minimum wage in Connecticut and amends the previous increases enacted last year. The law will be phased in over three years.

The current minimum wage is $8.70 per hour; it was scheduled to go up to $9.00 per hour effective January 1, 2015. Under the new law, there will be a series of increases:

  1. $8.70 to $9.15 effective January 1, 2015
  2. $9.15 to $9.60 effective January 1, 2016
  3. $9.60 to $10.10 effective January 1, 2017

The greater impact of these increases has yet to be seen–but you will need to update your workplace posters more frequently in the upcoming years.

On the national front, last month President Obama issued a memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Labor to revisit existing regulations governing exemptions to federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. Currently, the most common exemptions are for executive, administrative or professional employees (often called “white collar” exemptions). Generally, to qualify for exemption under federal law, employees must be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455.00 and their job duties must meet specific tests, such as including managerial or supervisory responsibility or requiring advanced knowledge or independent judgment. When an employee qualifies as exempt, the employer is not obligated to pay overtime; however, the employer may elect to pay the employee for extra hours worked without losing the exemption.

To qualify for the executive employee exemption:

  1. the employee’s primary duty must be managing the enterprise, or managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise;
  2. the employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two or more other full-time employees; and
  3. the employee must have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or the employee’s suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement or promotion of other employees must be given weight.

To qualify for the administrative employee exemption:

  1. the employee’s primary duty must be the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer’s customers; and
  2. the employee’s primary duty must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.

To qualify for the learned professional employee exemption, all of the following tests must be met:

  1. the employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge;
  2. the advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and
  3. the advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

The creative professional exemption requires that the employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

The President’s directive is just the first step in the process of changing the existing regulations. The regulations must still be drafted, proposed and then adopted by the Department of Labor (DOL). Once the DOL adopts the new overtime regulations, however, employers will need to review how they classify workers for overtime purposes and track overtime hours.

Currently, state wage and hour laws differ from the federal law in various ways. For example, Connecticut’s laws governing exemption status of employees are stricter than the federal requirements. More information is available online here. The determination of exempt status is a very important one and should not be made lightly; confer with counsel on each occasion.

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