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Does the double-damage rule apply to failure to pay bonus cases?

Peter J. Bartinik, Jr.
Civil Trial Attorney, Practicing Law in Connecticut

Blog Category:
7/28/2014
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Bonus Pay, and Connecticut's Wage Law.

Connecticut's Wage Law.

In Connecticut, like many other states, there is a law that says when an employer fails to pay its employees their wages then the employer is liable to pay double damages.  It is a penalty.  It provides an incentive for the employer to pay wages on time.  The law is Connecticut General Statute § 31-72.

Is a Bonus a Wage?  It Should be.

A wage is traditionally a set sum of money for a set amount of work, say $15 per hour.  But what about bonus pay?  Is a bonus, a wage?  If so, then for a failure-to-pay-bonus case, the plaintiff can collect double damages.

In many instances employees and employers rely heavily on the bonus as a means to pay employees.  Some employees are paid a bonus that is larger then their entire annual wage for the year.  For others, bonus pay is a regular occurance and comes to be expected and relied upon.  The bonus pay and be in integral part of the overall employee compensation, or even the primary source of compensation. 

In these instances, when the bonus pay is use as a primary means of employee compensation the Connecticut Wage law rules should apply.   So, when someone is denied a bonus wrongfully, that violation, should be considered a violation of the Wage law which should subject the employer to double damages under Connecticut General Statute § 31-72.

The Courts Make it Difficult.

Unfortunatley, Courts have interpreted the Connecticut Wage Law rather restrictively making it very difficult to seek double damages when an employer wrongfully fails to pay a bonus.  Generally, when a bonus is discretionary, it is not considered to a be a wage, and is therefore not subject to the double-damage provision of the Wage Law.  

But There is Still Hope.

But there are many instances when a company use a formula, system, or policy that takes most of the discretion out of the bonus process.  In these instances, it makes sense to apply the double-damage Wage Law rule to situations when an employer fails to pay a bonus.  While it is still difficult to win these cases with the current caselaw, it is not impossible.

If you or anyone you know has been denied their fair pay in either wage form, or bonus form then you have legal rights.  Contact The Bartinik Law Firm, P.C. 100 Fort Hill Road, Groton, Connecticut at 860-445-8521 or toll free at 888-717-4211.



Category: Employment Law


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