Restaurants plea for ‘clear, predictable regulations’ on wage rules

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut‘s restaurant industry says some restaurants are being sued for following the rules. They want state lawmakers to clarify the rules for workers that receive tips. They said as much in a press conference at the state capitol Thursday morning.

Related: Restaurant workers, owners speak out ahead of hearing on proposed tipped wage law

There are currently about 20 lawsuits against restaurant groups alleging that workers’ pay was not calculated properly.

Related: Mega crowd expected for ‘tipped wage’ hearing at State Capitol

Barry Jessurum, owner of ’85 Main’ in Putnam, said Thursday, “Restaurants across the state are being accused of not segregating time to tipped servers while performing non-service duties, but the regulatory and enforcement agency gave the industry advice to the contrary.”

Some current and former restaurant servers also spoke out in Hartford Thursday saying they’ve been subjected to what they describe as ‘wage theft.

Expected speakers at ‘Justice for Tipped Workers’ Press Conference in Hartford Thursday morning.

Valerie Nettleton is a former restaurant server and says she does a lot more than serve: “You’re required to do cleaning, you’re required to do ‘take out orders,’ you’re required to cut fruits and vegetables.”

Restaurant server Kim Davis added, “They’ve skimmed our tips to pay for the credit card fee or sometimes they’d hold all of your tips that you’ve earned for several days before finally paying you.”

The Restaurant Owners Association admits that, like all businesses, there are ‘bad actors’ but it is not the norm. All they are seeking is a clear clarification of when the reduced tip wage or the full minimum wage applies, and what exact record-keeping is required for the hours at the different rates.

Dan Meiser, owner of the ‘Oyster Club’ in Mystic saying, “What the small business owners here today are seeking is simple; fair, clear and predictable regulations of our business so that we can keep our doors open.”

Connecticut State Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby telling lawmakers on two committees Thursday, “Although a multi-faceted issue, I truly believe that a workable enforcement standard can be incorporated into the new proposed regulations.”

But the Commissioner also told lawmakers today that having new regulations in place by December 1st, as has been proposed, is not possible. Westby says the decision would take several more months.

Restaurant owners are also saying that the increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next four years will cause restaurant prices to increase, and that will automatically increase tipped worker’s wages because tips are calculated on the total of the bill.

They say the average tip in Connecticut is 18% and they also say that the average real wage for tipped servers in Connecticut is $25 per hour.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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