Key Issues for Servers

KEY ISSUES FOR Servers, Waiters,& Restaurant Employees
If you are a waiter or server and believe you have been deprived of wages, there are a few questions you should ask:

If you answered “Yes” to these questions, you should consider contacting an attorney at Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore.

Servers / Waiters / Restaurant Employees

Waiting tables requires excellent customer service skills and hard work. In fact, most waiters and waitresses depend on their service skills financially, since a significant portion of their paycheck usually comes from gratuities (tips).

Connecticut law allows employers to pay servers a lower minimum wage ($6.38) for the hours they spend waiting tables. However, many employers incorrectly pay this lower wage even for time the server spends cleaning and stocking.  These cleaning and stocking hours should be paid at the full minimum wage (currently $11.00) In doing so, they deprive servers of hard-earned pay, at least $4.62 per hour.

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.

Based in Hartford, our attorneys represent the employees of restaurants across Connecticut, including in Milford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and Stamford.

Current Investigations

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

  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Wood-n-Tap

Tip Credits for Connecticut Servers

Employers of waiters and servers can take a tip credit for work that servers do in their capacity as a server. The tip credit the employers can take out can be no larger than 36.8 percent of minimum wage, which comes to $3.72 under Connecticut wage and hour law.

However, the employer can only remove the portion of wages for the hours the server actually worked as a server. Waiters and waitresses frequently work several duties in their jobs, including helping in the kitchen, hosting and cleaning and stocking all over the restaurant. This can occur before the restaurant opens and after it closes. The Connecticut Department of Labor defines server duties as:

  • Taking food and beverage orders;
  • Bringing orders to the patrons;
  • Cleaning their immediate service area;
  • Filling condiment containers;
  • Vacuuming their immediate service areas; and
  • Replacing the table settings in their service area.

For time spent doing other duties, like hosting (other than taking patrons to the server’s service area), setting up, cleaning, preparing food or waiting on take-out customers, the employer must pay at least full minimum wage (currently $10.10).  This non-service work that is performed away from a server’s tables hurts that server’s ability to earn tips.  A server 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 $10.10 = $121.20.
  • Total pay: $299.84.

Katie should be paid $299.84 in this example (not including her tips) Some employers 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 $44.64.  This violation removed her employer’s entitlement to take the tip credit for all hours that week and it would owe her $148.8 (the tip credit for all forty hours).

Employers in Connecticut must keep the time servers spend in each category (service and non-service) segregated and recorded. If the employer requires other duties and does not segregate the 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 pool their tips, in which all tips are collected and distributed among the servers. There is no state law, but federal law allows tip pooling in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so it is permitted. Under the law, your employer may require you to participate.

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. Chefs, cooks, janitors and dishwaters, for example, do not usually receive tips, and therefore may not participate in the tip pool. Even worse, some employers may include managers and owners in the tip pool. The law expressly forbids employers, defined as a person with the power to hire and fire employees, supervises and controls work schedules and conditions, determines the pay rate of employees and how they get paid and/or maintains employment records.

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

Hayber, McKenna & Dinsmore | Hartford Attorney for Waiters and Waitresses

If you’re a server 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 waiter or waitress.

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