Two new sets of statistics released this month by the Connecticut Department of Labor shed some light into the workplaces in Connecticut.
First and foremost, the number of deaths in the workplace last year remained the same as in 2006 — 38. While any death is tragic, the rate is far below the national average. The Hartford Business Journal reports that work injuries claimed nearly 5,500 lives nationwide in 2007, resulting in a rate of 3.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Connecticut’s rate for last year was 2.1 deaths per 100,000.
So, are Connecticut employers and workers more careful than the rest of the nation? That’s unlikely, according to the DOL, which attributes the lower death rate to the fact that most jobs in the state are in "low-risk industries". In other words, there aren’t a lot of deaths doing insurance and financial services work in Connecticut.
Second, the DOL reported to the Governor M. Jodi Rell that it recovered nearly $7 million in unpaid wages for workers in Connecticut during the fiscal year that ended June 30. The press release from Governor Rell (available here) touts the department’s "success":
The Department’s Division of Wage and Workplace Standards recovered $3.2 million after 3,234 workers complained they were not paid wages owed to them. The division also recovered $1 million by enforcing Connecticut’s prevailing wage laws and returned $2 million more to workers unpaid for overtime or the minimum wage. Additionally, the department recovered $58,000 in back pay owed to service workers hired by private contractors for work on state property.
According to Division Director Gary Pechie, the unit handled more than 25,000 telephone and written inquiries during the past fiscal year and provided outreach services to businesses and schools to ensure that laws were fully understood.
Perhaps some of these companies thought they could make a cheap buck at workers’ expense. But more likely, many of these companies were simply unaware of their obligations.
IS following the law easy? At times, no. Overtime rules can be confusing and employers are often unaware of obligations to, for example, pay wages on a weekly basis unless an exception has been granted. Some of the laws can be found here, but ultimately, remaining vigilant about such laws will reduce the likelihood that your company’s run-in with the DOL will end up as part of one of this "statistic".