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BPAA Biweekly State Policy Updates - October 4, 2019

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MINIMUM WAGE & LABOR

  • October 1, 2019 State Minimum Wage Increases: In Connecticut, the minimum wage will increase from $10.10 to $11.00 per hour. For tipped employees, the minimum cash wage will remain $6.38 per hour for hotel or restaurant industry employees, and $8.23 per hour for bartenders, but the maximum tip credit will increase from $3.72 to 4.62 per hour, and from $1.87 to $2.77 per hour, respectively. Connecticut's October 1, 2019 rate will only last 11 months, with the next increase occurring on September 1, 2020. In Delaware, the minimum wage will increase from $8.75 to $9.25 per hour. For tipped employees, the minimum cash wage will remain $2.23 per hour, but the maximum tip credit will increase from $6.52 to $7.02 per hour.

 

  • In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont (D) sent a letter to state legislators, urging them "to act quickly to adopt legislation in a special session to address a recent spate of lawsuits brought against restaurants for violations of state regulations governing the wages owed restaurant workers who perform both service and non-service duties during a particular shift."
    • Restaurant owners and Gov. Lamont both call for special legislative session to resolve impasse over wages for workers: Restaurant owners, seeking an end to a simmering legal battle with their workers over wages, are asking Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders for help. The Connecticut Restaurant Association sent a letter Tuesday to Lamont and top lawmakers, asking them to convene a special session of the legislature to pass a bill that would clarify the rules regarding tipped workers’ wages.
      • "Connecticut’s restaurants and their 119,000 local employees have been living in an uncertain regulatory environment for some time, and creating stability in this sector will only benefit our state economy,'' states the letter, which was signed by more than 100 restaurant owners across Connecticut. "Conversely, continuing down a path of instability will only be to the detriment of state jobs and state revenues in the months ahead."
      • Read more here at the Hartford Courant.

 

  • In Idaho, signatures are being collected to place on a future ballot a measure to increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.00 per hour. 

 

  • Northern California's San Francisco Bay Area remains a hotbed of activity. Menlo Park and South San Francisco enacted new ordinances that, effective January 1, 2020, require employers to pay covered employees a $15.00 per hour minimum wage. Unlike many minimum wage ordinances (MWO), South San Francisco does not provide a potential exception for employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that explicitly waives the law's requirements. The city councils in Novato and East Palo Alto held hearings concerning proposed MWOs. Additionally, the Santa Rosa City Council published its agenda for October 1, which includes a proposed MWO.

 

  • In Wisconsin, SB 426 proposes to incentivize employers to pay tipped employees the full minimum wage by allowing employers of tipped employees to keep state sales taxes collected during any sales tax reporting period if during that period their records establish that at least 5% of the wages they pay to tipped employees is derived from tips and tipped employees are paid no less than the minimum wage, excluding tips.

 

  • In Colorado, Denver's mayor and a city councilperson are proposing a MWO that would set an initial minimum wage rate of $13.80 per hour on January 1, 2020, and $15.87 per hour the following January, with annual adjustments in future years. According to the mayor's press release, in November the city council should address the proposal.

 

  • KDVR Reports – Denver restaurant owners say closures, layoffs possible during contentious minimum wage meeting: Thursday, business owners gathered for a meeting with representatives of Mayor Michael Hancock to discuss the plan to raise the minimum wage in the city. Currently, Denver's minimum wage is $11.10/hr. If Denver's plan goes through it will be $13.80 an hour in 2020 and $15.87 an hour in 2021. Tipped employees would earn a base pay of $10.78 plus tips in 2020 and earn $12.85 plus tips in 2021. Dan Frugman, the owner of Max Gill and Grille in Washington Park,  says the increase could force him to close down -- arguing what is the point of working 80 hour work weeks. "If the increase in minimum wage goes up we are going to have to lay off employees we are going to have to be there more often - it's going to take away my time with my daughter which could potentially destroy my family," Frugman said. Frugman's big argument is involving tipped employees, like servers and bartenders. State law requires tipped wages be no less than $3.02 below the state minimum wage. "They'd be making more than anyone in the restaurant including myself as the owner," Frugman said.
    • Other business owners, like Mark Berzins of the Little Pub Company, said it makes him wonder about installing kiosks in bars. "I was very disappointed not to see city council here," Berzins said. "Every person in that room is thinking how can I have customers order on the tablet." As for whether the city is open to amending their proposal -- time will tell. Hancock's Deputy Chief of Staff Evan Dreyer attended the meeting on behalf of the mayor. "People fee passionately about their businesses," Dreyer said. "Right now the proposal is for Jan. 1 implementation. We are listening to everybody and some of the feedback we are hearing is to delay it beyond January."

 

  • WTTW Illinois: Minimum Wage Debate: Should Tipped Workers Also ‘Fight for $15’?: Should tipped workers make the same minimum wage as non-tipped workers? A pending ordinance in City Council would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 – including for workers who earn tips. Those in favor of the plan say it would lead to more financial stability for tipped employees, while those opposed believe it would harm independent restaurants, increase menu prices and cut hours for waitstaff. Last month, City Council members heard testimony from both sides of the debate over the “Raise Chicago” ordinance introduced by Ald. Sophia King (4th Ward) in June.
    • The proposal to bump the wage of tipped employees has drawn criticism from groups like the Illinois Restaurant Association, which believes that eliminating the tip credit will harm the city’s restaurant industry. The IRA is not opposed to raising the minimum wage, says Sam Sanchez, vice chairman of the group, but suggests an increase should align with the state’s timeline to get to $15 by 2025. Under that law, the base wage for tipped workers will rise to $9 an hour by 2025. The base pay for tipped workers in Chicago is currently $6.40 an hour; outside of the city the hourly wage is $4.95 an hour. The federal wage for tipped workers is $2.13. Employers are required under law to make up the difference for employees that earn tips. In October 2018, City Council approved of the formation of the Office of Labor Standards to enforce the city’s minimum wage, paid sick leave and anti-wage theft.

 

  • Nearly half of NJ businesses believe $15 minimum wage will hurt them: A new poll finds almost half of all small business owners in New Jersey believe the state’s $15 an hour minimum wage law will negatively impact them. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 424 small business owners with 50 or fewer employees, found about 50% believe implementation of the minimum wage law will have no impact on them, but 45% said the higher wage will hurt their bottom line. Rich Higginson, the FDU poll director of market research, said 36% of companies with only a handful of employees said the new minimum wage would have a negative impact on them, but “when you move up to companies that have 21 or more employees, that number jumps up to 62%”. He said many company bosses fear there will also be a negative domino effect as the minimum wage increases over the next four years. “They’re saying the guy that’s currently making $10 or $11 or $12 is going to want an increase in salary commensurate to the increase in minimum wage," he said. Read more at New Jersey 101.5.

 

TAX UPDATE

 

  • After a recent increase in Connecticut’s sales tax on prepared meals was interpreted as an expansion to many items generally considered groceries, like bagged lettuce and bagels, Gov. Ned Lamont ordered a review and the Department of Revenue Services has revised its guidance to narrow the scope of the tax.
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