HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Several Connecticut restaurants have been sued by their workers alleging they’ve been unfairly paid.
Lawmakers planned to take a vote on Monday that would essentially stop the lawsuits, but that vote has been delayed.
Employees at Chip’s restaurant, which has several locations throughout the state, get paid less than minimum wage if they also get tips.
That’s how it’s been there and at many Connecticut restaurants for years.
However, workers are latching onto a loophole, arguing they should be paid more, and they’re taking the restaurants to court.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association said the forecast for other restaurants, from mom and pops to bigger chains, is looking grim.
“It could potentially affect everybody,” said Scott Dolch, of CT Restaurant Association.
The gloomy outlook is because workers from 8-10 restaurant groups are suing their employers.
It stems from the interpretation over a decades old law known as the 80/20 rule. It allows restaurants to pay certain workers, like waiters, less than minimum wage.
“Eighty percent of your job has to be service and 20 % has to be non-service duties,” Dolch said.
He explains, within that measure, there’s also this regulation that requires all time to be segmented, which would require tips on top of minimum wage.
“You need to segment all time, every minute of every time a server steps away from a table,” Dolch said.
The unclear language has pitted some workers against the restaurants because each side is pointing to the same law.
“They found that piece of regulation and used it as a loophole to go after the restaurants,” Dolch said.
Lawmakers were close to repealing that loophole and it had bipartisan support.
“The bill intended to do was just say hey, these are the rules. The rules are 80/20. The rules are the rules you’ve been using all this time,” said Republican State Rep. David Rutigliano.
Gov. Ned Lamont vetoed it, saying since it would affect the pending lawsuits, passing it likely violated workers’ due process rights.
On Monday, in a special session, lawmakers were supposed to overturn that veto, but neither the House nor the Senate took it up for a vote.
“Instead we are planning to convene a separate special session to take up a compromise on the issues in 5001,” said Democratic State Senator Martin Looney.
That new special session could be next month, maybe later.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association says it leaves all establishments big or small, open to more lawsuits.
“This is what you’ve asked us to follow and this is what they followed and they’ve been sued for it,” Dolch said.
The major hang-up is the pending lawsuits and even though no vote was taken Monday, lawmakers say the day wasn’t wasted.
They worked to write a new bill that will create a clear rule for the future while not impacting the current lawsuits.