Can a restaurant take a tip credit and pay servers less than the Connecticut minimum wage?
For now, yes. The Hartford Courant ran a story this past week about a proposed bill which would require restaurants to pay wait staff the full minimum wage. If the bill became law, restaurants would not be allowed to take the “tip credit.” Restaurant owners were not happy about the proposed bill. However, they need not be concerned for now because legislators have indicated that the provision to eliminate the tip credit “was a drafting error … nothing more.”
Although we have previously written about the tip credit, it is worth reminding our faithful readers how the tip credit works. In Connecticut, the minimum wage is $8.25/hour. A restaurant may pay less than this to servers whose duties relate solely to the serving of food or beverages to customers, if they customarily get tips. They can take what is called a “tip credit” of 31% and pay servers $5.69 for the time they are waiting on customers and getting tipped. Even if the server earns more than $8.25 in tips, the restaurant still owes at least $5.69 for all hours worked as a server.
The tip credit rule only applies, however, to the time spent actually being a server. No tip credit can be applied to time spent doing other things, such as: (1) cleaning rest rooms, (2) preparing food, (3) washing dishes, (4) showing all patrons to their seats, (5) doing general set-up work before the restaurant opens or after it closes to customers, (6) doing kitchen clean-up, and (7) doing general cleaning work. These duties are sometimes referred to as “side-work.” Time spent performing these duties must be tracked separately and paid at $8.25 per hour. If it is not, then no tip credit can be taken for the entire shift!
If you or someone you know is a server who is not being paid for side-work at the rate of $8.25 per hour, or if you are required to share your tips with restaurant managers, please contact us so that you can learn about your rights.