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Legislative Session Doesn't Solve Controversial Minimum Wage Provision In Vetoed Bill

A law passed this legislative session would have protected restaurant owners who are being sued over a provision in minimum wage law. But that bill was vetoed by Governor Ned Lamont and lawmakers have decided to let his veto stand.

Currently in Connecticut, wait staff that are tipped receive a lower minimum wage.

Many of them also perform duties unrelated to waiting on a customer, like filling a ketchup bottle or rolling napkins -- state law says for this work, they can make the higher minimum wage.

But restaurants have been following guidelines by the state Department of Labor that lets them pay these workers at the lower rate - and that’s led to lawsuits.

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano supports a bill that retroactively protects restaurant owners from paying out damage claims.

“Many of these restaurants relied upon the advice they received from the Department of Labor and acted accordingly and now they’re being sued in relying upon that advice, so we need to correct that,” he said.

But Lamont vetoed the bill because it affected workers’ ability to collect lost wages - a move that was praised by unions.

The state legislature got together in Hartford for a veto session Monday and while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle talked about turning back Lamont’s decision, there wasn’t an override vote in either chamber.

Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, is now unclear on the scope of what tip credit workers can do and how they're paid. Dolch said the guidelines his owners follow relate to something called the "80/20 rule," which stipulates that restaurant owners don't have to track time for work that tip-credit employees perform outside of their tipped work as long as it doesn’t add up to more than 20 percent of the workers’ total day. He was at the state Capitol on Monday to speak to lawmakers on their behalf.

“Right now, your policies and procedures say it’s 80/20 and we’ve been following that rule and that’s what we want,” Dolch said. “I think that that’s where we’re looking for clarity and why we’re here today is to try to talk to talk to legislators for them to understand that there is an issue with what is currently as a regulation and what are the policies and procedures of the D.O.L.”

The controversial minimum wage provision is just one part of an original proposal that regulated the administration of grants by the state’s workforce training authority. 

Democratic Senate President Martin Looney says the General Assembly will now create a new proposal that the governor could get behind. 

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