Connecticut restaurant industry workers may have been paid incorrectly

Apr 11, 2020 7:15 PM ET

The state of Connecticut experienced numerous issues related to attempting to figure out pay for employees in the restaurant and bar industry. This is an especially complicated issue because a significant portion of wages in this industry comes from cash tips, which are often unreported, yet workers must be paid at least minimum wage if they switch from serving customers to other duties around the restaurant.


Restaurant industry asks for formal clarification regarding wages and tips

The state’s governor and other legislators were asked to intervene in a debate that has been ongoing for a long time throughout Connecticut. The local Restaurant Association sent a formal letter to the governor’s office asking for a bill to be passed during a special session that would clarify a number of laws regarding wages and tips. The association estimates that over 100,000 workers in the state would be affected by the clarifications, and they also told the state government that such clarifications would benefit the economy as a whole. In the past, restaurants had been sued by labor attorneys or faced other adverse actions, even when trying to comply with the state’s vague guidelines. The Department of Labor is hoping that the updates can strike a balance between the interests of workers and employers, while limiting future problems.

The governor did ask for a special session in response. He pressured the state legislature to act quickly and find a way to clarify these issues once and for all.

State rules have always been somewhat complex when food and beverage service industry employees are involved. Industry employers are allowed to pay less than minimum wage because these workers receive tips in addition to their hourly wages. However, some employees may be required to spend part of their shift performing additional duties aside from serving tables that are not tipped. The Department of Labor had previously issued guidelines that said as long as a worker spent 80% of their time serving customers, they could be paid less than minimum wage. However, this time is not always easy to calculate, especially when needs can change as waves of customers come in during the course of a shift. Some workers have filed labor and wage lawsuits related to back pay that they claimed was missing based on this time split.

Restaurant owners had already been holding meetings with legislators and regulators to solve these problems and avoid more litigation.


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