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Connecticut Legislature Considering Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage by $1.75 Within the Next Two Years


Connecticut Legislature Considering Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage by $1.75 Within the Next Two Years

March 15, 2012

The Labor and Public Employees Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly has proposed a bill, House Bill 5291, which aims to raise the minimum wage in Connecticut twice within the next two years.  The bill would amend Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-58, Connecticut’s minimum wage statute.  The current minimum wage in Connecticut is $8.00 per hour, which has been in effect since January 1, 2009.  The current proposal seeks to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 on July 1, 2012 and to $9.75 on July 1, 2013.  The bill also proposes that effective April 15, 2014, and not later than each April 15 thereafter, the state Labor Commissioner shall announce an adjustment in the minimum wage based on the consumer price index.  The adjustment announced by the Labor Commissioner on April 15 would go into effect the following July 1.

The bill also proposes to eliminate the tip credit applicable to restaurant wait staff and bartenders as currently set forth in Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-60.  Presently, Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-60 recognizes tip income as part of the minimum wage.  Wait staff are currently paid $5.69 per hour and bartenders are paid $7.34 an hour.  The proposed bill would make the full minimum wage applicable to wait staff and bartenders.

Finally, the proposed bill would increase the recovery by an employee who brings a wage claim against his or her employer for failure to pay the minimum wage.  The bill proposes to amend Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-68 to state that any employee who brings a civil action “shall recover … three times the amount of unpaid minimum fair wages, including interest thereon, and costs and such reasonable attorney’s fees as may be allowed by the court….”  The current text of the statute provides only that the employee “may” recover twice the amount of unpaid wages, costs and attorney’s fees.  Therefore, the new proposal would make the payment of such an award mandatory rather than discretionary, increases the award from double to triple the amount of unpaid wages, and allows for the recovery of interest.

Not surprisingly, the proposed bill has employers, especially restaurant owners, up in arms.  A public hearing was held on the bill on February 28, 2012 where many small business and restaurant owners voiced their strenuous opposition to the bill.  In response to restaurant owners’ concerns, legislators indicated at the public hearing that the proposal to eliminate the tip credit was a “drafting error” and would not be included in future drafts of the bill as it moves forward.

The State of Washington is currently the only state with a minimum wage higher than $9.00 per hour, at $9.04.  The federal standard is $7.25 per hour.  The Governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, has not yet announced whether he will support the bill.

We will continue to monitor the status of this bill as it moves through the Connecticut legislature.

If you have questions about how this may impact your business: