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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Connecticut

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Connecticut.

During even-numbered years, the General Assembly is in session from February to May. In odd-numbered years, when the state budget is completed, session lasts from January to June. The governor has the right to call for a special session after the end of the regular session, while the General Assembly can call for a veto session after the close in order to override gubernatorial vetoes. New Legislation Effective Dates are typically January 1, July 1 and October 1.

At-Will Employment

Connecticut generally follows the at-will employment doctrine, meaning that either the employer or employee may end the employment relationship at any time. There are exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine.  Connecticut permits a cause of action for wrongful termination of an at-will employee where the discharge "contravenes a clear mandate of public policy." Sheets v. Teddy's Frosted Foods, Inc., 179 Conn. 471, 474 (1980). Public policy may be found in constitutional or statutory provisions or in judicially conceived notions. The statutory provisions include prohibitions against discharging an employee for filing a claim for unemployment or workers' compensation, filing a wage enforcement claim, and exercising federal or state constitutional rights of religious freedom, free speech or assembly. The public policy exception is quite limited and has been recognized only in situations where the employer's action violates some law.

Connecticut also permits a cause of action for wrongful termination based on an implied employment contract. In order to prevail on such a claim, an employee must prove that the employer agreed, either by words, action, or conduct, to not terminate the employee without just cause D'Ulisse-Cupo v. Board of Directors of Notre Dame High School, 202 Conn. 206, 212 n.2 (1987).

The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, age, color, religion, gender, marital status, national origin, ancestry, history of mental disorder, learning disability, physical disability, sexual orientation or genetic information. Discrimination and retaliation are also exceptions to the employment at will doctrine. 

Right-to-Work Laws

Connecticut is not a right-to-work state.

Immigration Verification

Connecticut places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. There is no requirement to use E-Verify under Connecticut state laws.

Drug Testing

Under Connecticut law, no employer may require a prospective employee to submit to a urinalysis drug test as part of the application procedure unless the following conditions are met:

  • The applicant is informed in writing at the time of application of the employer's intent to conduct such a drug test;
     
  • The test is conducted in accordance with the statutory procedures, which mandate the methodology for such tests; and
     
  • The applicant is given a copy of any positive drug test result.

The statute further provides that the results of any such test must be kept confidential and not disclosed by the employer or its employees to any person other than any such employee to whom such disclosure is necessary. Drug test results should be treated the same as employee medical records, kept separately from personnel records.

Jury Duty Leave

An employer must pay full-time employees regular wages for the first five days, or part thereof, of jury service, unless the employer has been excused by the Chief Court Administrator from compensating the employee. To be excused from compensating a juror, an employer must submit a written application to the Chief Court Administrator. The Chief Administrator must find the employer is subject to financial hardship sufficient to justify excusing them from the compensation obligation. In cases where an employer is excused for compensating an employee for jury service, the state will compensate the employee for the first five days of jury service, not to exceed $50 per day. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-247.

An employee is not considered a full-time employed juror on any day of jury service in which the person (1) would not have accrued regular wages if they were not serving as a juror on that day, or (2) would not have worked more than one-half of a shift which extends into another day if they were not serving as a juror on that day. Each juror not considered a full-time employed juror on a particular day is reimbursed by the state of Connecticut for necessary out-of-pocket expenses incurred during that day of jury service, provided the day of service falls within the first five days, or part thereof, of jury service. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-247.

An employer may not discharge, penalize, threaten or otherwise coerce an employee for receiving or responding to a jury summons or for serving on a jury. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-247a.

Any employee who has served eight hours of jury duty in any one day is deemed to have worked a legal day's work, and an employer cannot require the employee to work in excess of eight hours as dictated by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-21; Conn. Gen. Stat. § 51-247a.

Voting Leave

Connecticut enacted a law effective June 25, 2021, requiring employers to provide all employees with two hours of unpaid time-off to vote. Employees wishing to utilize this time-off must request leave at least two working days prior to the election. 

Parental Leave

Connecticut's FMLA statute requires private-sector employers of 75 or more employees to grant up to 16 weeks of leave in any two-year period to an eligible employee in order to care for a newborn or newly placed foster child or for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition. Leave authorized by this statute is unpaid, but the employee may use, or the employer may require him to use, accrued paid vacation, personal or sick leave before unpaid leave kicks in.

The federal FMLA covers Connecticut's private-sector employers with 50 or more employees, municipalities, public and private schools, and state employees (though a state law also covers the latter group). Employers of fewer than 50 employees are not covered by any FMLA law.

The federal FMLA does not preempt any provision of a state family leave law that is more favorable to employees than the federal law. Both laws apply to employers and employees who fall under their definitions. This means, for example, that employees covered under both laws can take up to 16 weeks of leave under the state law in one year and further 12 weeks under the federal law in the next.

Other Leave

The State of Connecticut does not require private employers to offer to employees paid vacation or sick leave. However, the employer is subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act and its requirements. Although, an employer is required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract requires it. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-76k.

Smoking Laws

Employers with less than five employees must establish one or more work areas sufficient to accommodate any worker who requests to work in a non-smoking area.

  • Signs shall be posted to designate non-smoking work areas.
     
  • Signs must be prominently posted and maintained, and removal is punishable by law.
     
  • Physical barriers and ventilation systems shall be used to the extent practicable to minimize the effect of smoking in adjacent non-smoking areas.
     
  • Employers with five or more employees must prohibit smoking in any business facility under their control, except the employer may designate one or more smoking rooms.

The employer must also provide sufficient non-smoking break rooms for their non-smoking employees. Each smoking room designated must meet the following requirements:

  • Air from the smoking room shall be exhausted directly to the outside by an exhaust fan.
     
  • No air shall be recirculated into any part of the building.
     
  • The ventilation standard shall comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.
     
  • The smoking room shall be located in a non-work area where no employee is required to enter as part of their work duties.
     
  • The smoking room is for employees only.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40q.

Break Time to Express Milk

Connecticut labor laws require employers to allow employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk during meal and rest breaks.

Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide nursing mother employees with private locations where nursing mothers may express breast milk. The locations must be in close proximity to the nursing mothers' work areas. Toilet stalls do not meet the minimum standards for the nursing mother's location.

Reasonable efforts to provide the minimum requirements for nursing mother locations may not impose an undue hardship on the employer's business. Whether an employer will suffer an undue hardship by providing a nursing mother location involves how significant the difficulty or expense of it will be related to such factors as:

  • The size of the business
     
  • Its financial resources
     
  • The nature and structure of its operation

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40w.

Meal Breaks

Connecticut labor laws require employers to provide their employees a meal period of at least 30 consecutive minutes if they have worked for seven and one-half or more consecutive hours. Such period shall be given at some time after the first two hours of work and before the last two hours. The Labor Commissioner will exempt an employer from this requirement if one of the following conditions is present:

  • Complying with this requirement would endanger public safety;
  • The duties of the position can only be performed by one employee;
  • The employer employs fewer than 5 employees on that shift at that one location (this only applies only to employees on that particular shift); or,
  • The employer's operation requires that employees be available to respond to urgent conditions, and that the employees are compensated for the meal period.

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51ii.

Minimum Wage, Overtime and Wage Recordkeeping

Connecticut's current minimum wage is $12 per hour. Over the next several years, Connecticut's minimum wage rate will increase as follows:

  • August 1, 2021 – $13 per hour
     
  • July 1, 2022 – $14 per hour
     
  • June 1, 2023 – $15 per hour

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58.

Beginning on January 1, 2024, Connecticut's minimum wage will increase each year on January 1. The amount of the minimum wage increase will be based on the percentage change in the employment cost index or its successor index, for wages and salaries for all civilian workers, as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor, over the 12-month period ending on June 13 of the preceding year, rounded to the nearest whole cent. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58. The Connecticut Department of Labor may recommend to the Governor that a scheduled minimum wage increase be suspended if there are two consecutive quarters of negative growth in the state's real gross domestic product as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58.

Connecticut's minimum wage law provides that its minimum wage will increase to be one-half of one percent more than the federal minimum wage when it increases, rounded to the nearest whole cent. Any increase to Connecticut's minimum wage resulting from an increase to the federal minimum wage rate takes effect on the same day as the federal rate change. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58.

Connecticut minimum wage laws do not allow employers to pay student learners less than the standard minimum wage. Employers must pay trainees the standard minimum wage rate, unless otherwise exempt

Provisions governing overtime pay can be found at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-58, et seq. Generally, if an employee works more than 40 hours, he or she must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which he or she is employed. This does not apply to agricultural employees, executive and administrative employees, automobile salesmen or any driver where the U.S. Secretary of Transportation has the power to establish qualifications and minimum hours of service.

An employer must keep at the place of employment for a period of three years a true and accurate record of: the hours worked by all employees and the wages paid to each employee. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-66.

Final Payments

When an employer discharges an employee, the employer must pay the employee all wages due no later than the end of the next business day. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71c.

When an employee quits or leaves employment, the employer must pay the employee all wages due by the next regular pay day either through the regular payment channels or by mail. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71c.

When an employee leaves employment as a result of a labor dispute, the employer must pay the employee by the next regular pay day. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-71c.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Unemployment benefits are administered by the Connecticut Department of Labor and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at portal.ct.gov/DOLUI.

Workers' Compensation

The Connecticut Workers' Compensation Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-275, et seq., applies to every employer in Connecticut, except if one has household employees who work fewer than 26 hours per week. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Act. Under the Act, a workplace injury must be immediately reported to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits.

The Act is administered by the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission and additional information regarding the Act may be accessed at wcc.state.ct.us/.

Child Labor

Generally, 14 is the minimum age for employment under Connecticut state law. At the age of 18 there are no longer any restrictions on the hours an individual may work. After age 16, any person may be employed by an employer holding a permit issued under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 30-90a. There are restrictions for places of work dealing with minors, as well as restrictions on the hours of the day the minor may work. The laws may be found at Connecticut Department of Labor.

Gun Laws

Employers in Connecticut have the authority to restrict or prohibit employees from carrying weapons on the job or bringing weapons to the workplace, even if the worker has a state permit to carry a gun. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-28e.

Additional Laws and Regulations

Polygraph Testing

No employer may request or require a prospective employee or current employee to take a polygraph test as a condition of employment. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51g.

Equal pay

Connecticut wage and hour laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on sex in the amount of compensation paid to any employee. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-75. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against any employee who has opposed any discriminatory compensation practice, filed a complaint, or testified or assisted in any proceeding under the law.

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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