Restaurants must pay minimum wage, even when on Beer Tub duty!

I know that sounds obvious, but at least one restaurant in Connecticut is violating this simple rule.  I won’t say who yet.  I’ll wait until the lawsuit is filed.  But it gives me a chance to explain the Connecticut tip credit law – again.

Servers earn tips.   It is for this reason that our General Assembly allows restaurants to pay them 31% less than the minimum wage.  They are not allowed, however, to pay them 100% less than the minimum wage (zero for those of you scoring at home) just because their tips are at least $8.25 per hour (CT’s current min wage).

Some restaurants must think differently because there are servers in Connecticut being asked to work for free, or tips only for such tasks as “Beer Tub” duty and “Promo Time.”  Some bartenders are also being asked to work off the clock and work only for tips.

This issue was litigated a long time ago and employees won.  Check out West v. Egan, 142 Conn. 437 (1955):

“The act states that ‘wages’ shall mean ‘compensation due to an employee by reason of his employment’ . . . .  Tips are gratuities.  Webster’s New International Dictionary (2d Ed.).   It is not for the court to determine whether, from the viewpoint of social welfare, gratuities should be included as part of the legal wage.  Williams v. Jacksonville Terminal Co., 315U.S. 386, 388, 62 S.Ct. 659, 86 L.Ed. 914.  The legislature has committed this determination to the labor commissioner and his advisory board as they may be called upon to deal with a particular industry.”  Id., 142Conn. at 444.

Our Department of Labor has a very clear and easy to understand website on this topic.   Here it is:  http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/wgwkstnd/wage-hour/restaurant.htm

In sum, servers get at least the minimum wage and cannot be made to work for free, whether it is at a beer tub or anywhere else.  There is no “beer tub” exception to the minimum wage.