Connecticut employment law allows restaurants to pay wait staff wages that are below minimum wage because those staffers also receive tips from customers.
In 2013, Amaral Brothers filed a petition with the Connecticut Department of Labor seeking a judgment as to whether they could pay their delivery drivers less than the minimum wage for the same reason. Amaral Brothers operate Domino’s Pizza franchises in Groton and Mystic and employ approximately 40 delivery drivers.
Last week, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that restaurant delivery drivers could not, in fact, be paid less than minimum wage. The higher court’s decision was unanimous.
In a 16 page decision, Supreme Court Justice Andrew J. McDonald cited the Connecticut Labor Commissioner when he wrote: “The commissioner… found that pizza delivery drivers differ from traditional wait staff in ways that impair their capacity to earn gratuities. For example, drivers do not have an opportunity to establish a rapport with customers by taking the initial order, providing status updates, checking periodically on customer satisfaction and needs, or cleaning the service area. Rather, the sole interaction with the customer is the brief exchange of food and payment at the time of delivery.”
In addition, McDonald, again citing the commissioner, continued, “The interaction between the driver and the customer is minimal in duration and quality. The (on the road) function possess none of the characteristics customarily associated with the complement of services provided by wait staff in a restaurant.”
In summary McDonald wrote, “We conclude that the 1980 amendment did not repeal by implication the department’s tip credit regulation as applied to restaurant workers, other than waitstaff and bartenders, who regularly and customarily receive gratuities, and that the department did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or in violation of its statutory authority in declining the plaintiff’s invitation to apply the tip credit to delivery drivers.”
If you’re an employer with questions about wage laws, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys has over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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