ENFIELD, Conn. (WTNH)– Governor Ned Lamont and the state restaurant association are asking that the legislature come back to the Capitol as soon as possible to address the ‘tipped wage’ controversy.
That’s the dispute over how wait staff and bartenders are paid for work not directly related to serving the public. It has resulted nearly two dozen lawsuits affecting nearly one hundred restaurants.
You’ll recall the Governor vetoed a bill earlier this year that was aimed at fixing this. It didn’t and the Governor and legislative leaders have been attempting to find a compromise that they can vote on.
There are now nearly 20 lawsuits against Connecticut restaurant groups representing nearly 100 restaurants, claiming the state’s tipped wage law was improperly applied and wait staff and and bartenders were underpaid.
Scott Dolch, of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, saying, “Unfortunately we see one every week or so that pop up and I think, for us it’s really about why this is a sense of urgency and what we’ve told the Governor is every week that goes buy we worry about another restaurant and the having to defend themselves.”
The compromise would limit damages if the restaurant being sued was relying on guidance from the state labor department that was inaccurate.
The general guidance restaurants have been following is that if an employee spends 80% of their work time serving the public, the lower tipped wage prevails otherwise the employee should be paid the full minimum wage.
At a local chamber event in Enfield Tuesday, the Governor saying, “I think we’ve reached 99% agreement. Let’s pass it. I just had the restaurant guys come up to me and say ‘I hear we’re done.’ Let’s do it.”
But the leader in the State Senate, Senate President Pro tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) says the legislature can’t rush to vote on any compromise until restaurant owners and operators and restaurant employees have a chance to give first person input to state lawmakers at a State Capitol public hearing.
Sen. Looney adding, “We do need to have a hearing because there was an agreement to do so in the first meeting that we had after the veto session because this concept had not been fully aired to the public hearing process during the session.
Governor Lamont says, “I think we have a good deal that treats the workers fairly. It gives the restaurants some certainty going forward that’s what I want to do.”
Legislative leaders will only say a Special Session could happen sometime before Thanksgiving. This is not the only thing that needs attention; there’s bonding, there’s a hospital law suit settlement, and there’s transportation, just to name a few.