HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Top legislative leaders were back at the Capitol on Wednesday in an effort to work out a compromise on restaurant worker wage rules. The issue is temporarily pushing highway tolls off the agenda at the capitol because of the fear that more restaurants may be targeted for lawsuits over alleged violation of worker pay rules.
It is estimated that 12 restaurants and restaurant groups are facing lawsuits alleging they didn’t pay some of their employees the proper wages. Today, the Governor’s legal counsel, Bob Clark, and his Chief of Staff Ryan Drajewicz met behind closed doors with legislative leaders in an effort to find a compromise on the restaurant worker wages issue.
Following the meeting, the Senate President Pro tem, Sen. Martin Looney (D-New Haven) saying, “What we’re trying to do is find a way that deals with the legitimate fears of the restaurant owners and at the same time is fair to workers who may be affected by the law and regulation.” The Minority Leader in the House, Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby) adding, “You shouldn’t have to be liable for a lawsuit with your reputation and your money and your business hanging in the balance when the state of Connecticut gave you wrong information. And that’s what we’re trying to remedy here.”
Republican Representative David Rutigliano of Trumbull is one of several lawmakers that own restaurants. Rutigliano owns 6. He says clarifying rules for servers and bartenders is essential because there are duties surrounding both of those jobs that arn’t directly related to service, “Like filling up ketchup, salt & pepper, wiping a table. What the lawsuits are bringing forward is saying that every time they don’t do something service related that they’re subject to the full minimum wage.”
The general rule restaurants have been following is that if the employee spends 80% of their time directly serving the customer, the lower tipped wage applies. Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) says, “We want to clarify our regulations. We don’t want to do wholesale changes. We truly want to clarify but then, where we can, find something to assist the restaurants in their defense of what they’ve been doing under the guidance of the Department of Labor is where we’re going.”
The legislative leaders say that before they bring all lawmakers back to the Capitol for a vote on a final fix to this they will hold an ‘Informational Public Hearing’ so that all sides can be heard.