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Recovering unpaid wages harder in weak economy

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut labor officials say the weak economy is making it harder to force companies to pay unpaid wages.

The Department of Labor said Thursday it recovered more than $5.5 million in unpaid wages for workers in Connecticut in the year that ended June 30. Officials responded to 3,800 complaints about unpaid wages.

That included $2 million recovered for unpaid wages, $1.6 million for unpaid overtime or the minimum wage, and $1.9 million by enforcing the state's prevailing wage laws.

That's down from $6.1 million recovered last year in response to 3,682 complaints.

Gary Pechie, director of the wage and workplace standards division, said Friday that businesses are fighting state officials and refusing to pay. Other companies are out of business.

He said labor officials are often forced to sue companies or seek an arrest to recover money for employees.

"It's definitely gotten tougher to recover the money though simple persuasion and explanation of laws," Pechie said.

Nonpayment of wages, overtime pay and other forms of payments are across numerous industries, such as medicine, financial services and construction, he said. Complicating efforts to recover money is that some companies have "layers of owners" with no one taking responsibility, Pechie said.

As a result, he said law enforcement efforts are taking longer.