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Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore

Connecticut Server, Bartender, Waiter, Waitress and Restaurant Employee Lawyer

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Do you ever feel like you're doing too much side work?

Restaurants in Connecticut must pay the full minimum wage to servers when they perform “non-service” work. Restaurants can only pay the lower server wage for “service” work and work “incidental to service.”  Examples of non-service include:

  • Cleaning and setup before opening, or after closing
  • General clean-up away from your tables or booths
  • Washing dishes
  • Waiting on take-out customers
  • Host(ess) duties
  • Preparing food

The Connecticut Department of Labor provides a guide on this here.

If you are assigned these tasks and only paid the tip credit rate (currently $6.38) for them, you may have a claim for unpaid wages under these laws.

Servers & Bartenders

Waiting tables requires excellent customer service skills and hard work. Most servers and bartenders depend on those service skills financially, since a significant portion of their paycheck comes from tips.

Connecticut law allows employers the privilege of paying servers and bartenders a lower wage for the hours they spend waiting on customers. However, many employers incorrectly pay this lower wage even for time spent cleaning and stocking.  Hours spent cleaning, stocking, or doing any other “non-service” work should be paid at the full minimum wage. By doing this, Restaurants take advantage of servers, and deprive them of hard-earned pay.

Connecticut Restaurant Servers Lawyer

If you spend your day on your feet, fulfilling the requests of demanding restaurant patrons, then you deserve every cent you make. If improperly denied pay, the Connecticut restaurant employee lawyers at Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore will fight for every cent you’re owed. Ignorance of the law on the part of your employer is no excuse. You may be owed back pay for every hour you worked. Contact us today by filling out our online form so we can review the details of your case.

With an office in both Hartford and New Haven,  our wage and hour attorneys represent the employees of restaurants across Connecticut, including in Milford, Bridgeport, Fairfield, Waterbury and Stamford.

Recent Results

  • $22,000 to a server in a side-work case

  • $35,000 to a bartender in a side-work case

  • $16,000 to a server in a side- work case

Current Investigations


We are currently investigating the tip-credit practices of a few Connecticut restaurants. These include:

Prior to September 24th, 2020, restaurants were required to pay their servers the full minimum wage, currently $12.00/hr. in Connecticut, for their entire shift if they made those servers do side-work and failed to pay the side-work at the full minimum wage. We allege that the restaurants listed above, assigned side-work but paid the lower server wage, $6.38/hr. for all hours worked, including side-work. We allege that this practice violates the law.

Important: At the request of Governor Ned Lamont and former Democratic Speaker of the House Joe Arasimowicz, Connecticut changed these laws on 9/24/2020 in a way that permits employers to have servers do more side-work than before the change. There still are limitations on what an employer may do. Please let us know if you have questions about the law both before and after 9/24/2020.

Tip Credits for Connecticut Servers and Bartenders

Under Connecticut wage and hour law restaurants can take a tip credit for work that servers and bartenders that is directly related to waiting on customers.

However, restaurants must comply with certain rules in order to take that tip credit. One rule is that the tip credit can only be paid for time spent doing “service work.” Servers and bartenders frequently work several duties in their jobs, including helping in the kitchen, hosting and cleaning and stocking all over the restaurant. That work is considered “non-service work.”  Some examples of service work from the Connecticut Department of Labor include:

  • Taking food and beverage orders;

  • Bringing orders to the patrons;

  • Cleaning their immediate service area;

  • Filling condiment containers;

  • Vacuuming their immediate service areas;

  • Replacing the table settings in their service area.

For time spent on other, “non-service” duties, restaurants must pay at least full minimum wage (currently $11.00).  This non-service work takes servers and bartenders away from their customers,  hurting their ability to earn tips.  A server or bartender who is pulled to different locations in the restaurant and not allowed to stay near their customers simply cannot provide the high quality service that results in good tips.

For example, Katie is a server at a small restaurant. She spends most of her time waiting tables for half the restaurant. However, she often must clean the restrooms, and sometimes helps washing dishes. She also has regular “side work” which usually includes silver ware roll ups, cleaning, stocking and other non-service duties (things for which she is not tipped). In a week, she works 40 hours. Of that, she spends 28 hours waiting tables, cleaning up her half of the restaurant and replacing the table settings.

However, she also spent four hours cleaning the restrooms, and eight hours washing dishes. For the 28 hours she performed server duties, her employer may take out the tip credit of 31 percent. For the 12 hours she did not perform server duties, her employer must pay full minimum wage:

  • Server Hours: 28 hours at $6.38 per hour = $178.64.

  • Non-service Hours: 12 hours at $11.00 = $132.00.

  • Total pay: $310.64.

Katie should be paid $310.64 in this example (not including her tips) Some restaurants would pay Katie the lower server rate ($6.38) for all forty hours, i.e., $255.20.  If this happened, Katie would be short changed by $55.44.  By violating the tip credit rule, the restaurant lost its right to take the tip credit, and it would owe Katie the $4.62 credit for all hours she worked that week. That is a total of $184.80.

Employers in Connecticut must keep track of how servers and bartenders are spending their time. Time spent on  service and non-service work must be segregated and recorded.  If the employer requires non-service work and does not segregate that time, it cannot take the tip credit.

Connecticut employers may never make a server work just for tips.

Tip Pooling in Connecticut

Connecticut allows employers to have what is called a “tip pool,” in which all tips are collected and distributed among the servers(or bartenders). Connecticut does not have a specific law about tip pooling but it is allowed under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA.)  Under the law, your employer may require you to participate in the tip pool.

However, many restaurants incorrectly pool tips. The FLSA allows employees who “customarily and regularly” receive gratuities to participate in a tip pool. This generally means employees who frequently interact with customers: waiters, waitresses, bartenders, busboys and counter service staff, for example.

Some employers may include all staff in the tip pool. For example, chefs, cooks, janitors and dishwaters. But because those employees do not usually receive tips, the restaurant is not allowed to include them in the tip pool. Even worse, some restaurants may include managers and owners in the tip pool. The law expressly forbids employers  – which can include managers under the law’s definition – from participating in the tip pool. Under the law, an employer is a person who has the power to hire and fire employees, who supervises and controls work schedules/conditions, who determines pay rates and how employees are paid and/or maintains employment records.

If your employer is improperly pooling tips, you could be missing out on money that you earned.

Hartford Employee Rights Attorney for Servers and Bartenders

If you’re a server or bartender who has been incorrectly paid, it could mean that you have been denied significant amounts of money — money you’ve earned and deserve. The Hartford restaurant employee lawyers at Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore will fight for what’s owed to you. Contact us today by filling out our online form so that we can review your issues with pay as a server or bartender.