A few weeks ago, I posted on a decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court that ruled that an order denying class certification is not an appealable final judgment. I said back then that the case, Palmer v. Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, gives employers and other defendants in class actions, "an important arrow in their quiver of defending against class action cases."
This week,the Hartford Business Journal discussed the case in some detail with some good information about the underlying claims raised by the wait staff.
The dispute between the food servers and restaurants hinges on the differences in the hourly wages paid to waiters and other non-wait staff. Restaurants are allowed to pay waiters below minimum wage levels, reducing wait staff pay by a 29.4 percent “tip credit,” which is based on the assumption that waiters are expected to earn much of their income from tips.
Food servers claim that their wallets take a hit when employers assign them tasks that don’t include waiting tables, such as brewing coffee, rolling napkins or cleaning restrooms.
For that reason, servers employed by T. G. I. Friday’s and Friendly’s want to be paid for the extra tasks they perform while on the job, so they have been working together to form class-action groups to fight restaurants.
The reporter from the story happened to call me for my views on the case, which I was happy to share with her. You can check out my quotes from the story here.
Without sounding like I’m trying to fawn over them, the HBJ really is an under-appreciated publication that fills a good niche on business news in the state. If you aren’t looking at their site, you are really missing out on some great little nuggets about Connecticut business.
The case also highlights the importance of following wage rules carefully. The application of a "tip credit" isn’t exactly the easiest formula for employers to apply in practice. Employers who may pay under minimum wage for one reason or another should consider themselves targets for potential claims and should ensure that they are in full compliance with the wage and hour laws.