Gov. Ned Lamont has called for a special session of the Connecticut General Assembly to address the unresolved legislative issue of wages for restaurant workers.
In July, Lamont vetoed HB 5001, “An Act Requiring a Study of Workforce Training Needs in the State,” which was predicated upon how employers deal with minimum-wage servers and bartenders – under state law, restaurant workers can be paid less than minimum wage when they are getting tips but not when they are doing nonservice work. Many workers have insisted they have been intentionally underpaid by employers who failed to properly track tipped and nontip work.
Lamont stated that his veto was enacted because the bill was designed to deny court access to restaurant workers seeking to file unpaid wages claims. An attempt to override the governor’s veto failed to gain traction.
In his call for a special session, Lamont said that his ongoing talks with labor unions, restaurant owners and other stakeholders in the issue resulted in a new a plan that he believed would benefit all sides.
“The legislative proposal that I have put forward through our collaborative discussions strikes the appropriate balance by eliminating double damages awards against restaurant owners who can provide they acted in good faith by relying reasonably on written guidance from the prior administration’s Department of Labor,” Lamont wrote in a letter to legislators. “My proposal also avoids the constitutional pitfalls of the prior proposal. Rather than retroactively repealing existing regulations, my proposal requires DOL to expedite the promulgation of new regulations.
“Prior to promulgating any such regulations DOL would be required to consider both state and federal guidance regarding service employee wages,” Lamont said. “In addition, DOL would be required to consult with all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of the restaurant industry, restaurant employees, service employees, and other interested stakeholders. Lastly, my proposal would clarify the circumstances under which class actions alleging violations of the existing regulations could proceed.”