Press Release06.25.2024

Pullman & Comley Represents Restaurants in Class Action Defense Win

HARTFORD, CT: A Connecticut judge ruled in favor of three restaurants represented by Pullman & Comley in a class action defense case involving wage and hour class action complaints.  While the additional decisions were rendered on December 29, 2023, the plaintiffs’ motions to reargue were denied on June 5, 2024.

The plaintiffs in the case were seeking class certification on behalf of what they claimed were similarly situated servers and bartenders at Maggie McFly’s, Wood n’ Tap, and Puerto Vallarta. They alleged that the restaurants did not pay the servers enough for tasks like rolling silverware, cleaning, and restocking, known as "side work”; however, the restaurants maintained that these allegations applied to pre-Covid versions of Connecticut’s tip credit law and were inapplicable to claims brought in 2022.

The Pullman team succeeded in dismissing the claims on the basis that the Plaintiffs’ claims were “legally insufficient” because: 1) The claims relied on inapplicable older versions of Connecticut’s tip credit laws (§§ 31-62-E3 and 31-62-E4); 2) “E3” did not provide a private right of action; and 3) The claims were time barred when analyzed under the tolling doctrines established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in American Pipe and its progeny.  This result capped off the Pullman team’s multi-year defense of numerous Connecticut restaurants from “tip credit” lawsuits brought under the defunct regulations.  

The Pullman team also worked closely with the Connecticut legislature to reform the laws fueling these class action complaints, and helped secure passage of genuine and much-needed state-wide reforms for the restaurant industry. Prior to these legislative reforms, the definition of “side work” was vague and undefined; for example, was cutting a lime a “service-related” duty? And could a server earn the tip credit rate while cutting a lime for his or her table?

Bipartisan legislative reforms in 2020 and 2021 addressed these uncertainties and, as a result, restaurants and their employees now have a clear definition of the 23 tasks which constitute “service-related side work” and how alleged violations of Connecticut’s tip credit may—and may not—be remedied. Restaurants—and their employees—now have the regulatory certainty needed to focus on post-Covid growth and expansion.

“Pullman’s deep understanding of Connecticut wage and hour and other employment laws as well as the hospitality industry, combined with its truly innovative strategies, have created a new paradigm for restaurants defending themselves against wage and hour class actions,” said Scott Dolch, President and CEO of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

Attorney Ryan O’Donnell, who leads Pullman & Comley’s Hospitality Law team and also serves as outside general counsel to the Connecticut Restaurant Association, emphasized the importance of this dismissal to the restaurant industry as a whole. “Restauranters are some of Connecticut’s most dynamic, innovative entrepreneurs, and their creations form the bedrock of our communities. However, the past few years have posed a series of unprecedented challenges to our state’s restauranters, including Covid, labor shortages, inflation, and these lawsuits. Pullman’s team is proud that in securing this positive outcome, we were able to support Connecticut’s hospitality industry’s post-Covid comeback.”

The restaurants were represented by Ryan A. O’Donnell, James T. Shearin, Eliot B. Gersten, Dana Hrelic, Maria Rapp, and Melinda Kaufmann.

About Pullman & Comley

Pullman & Comley is one of Connecticut’s largest law firms and, for more than 100 years, has provided a wide range of legal services to clients in the New England region, as well as throughout the United States and internationally. Pullman & Comley’s major practice areas include business organizations and finance; public finance; health care; labor, employment law and employee benefits; litigation; property tax and valuation; real estate, energy, environmental and land use; and trusts and estates.

Pullman & Comley’s Hospitality practice group is a multidisciplinary team that represents many of the region’s most recognized and established restaurants, hotels and tourism-related businesses.

The group includes attorneys practicing in labor and employment, corporate, real estate, construction, litigation, energy, intellectual property, marketing, advertising and social media, and technology law. 

Pullman & Comley has offices in Bridgeport, Hartford and Westport, Connecticut; White Plains, New York; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Wakefield, Rhode Island. The firm is an active member of the Law Firm Alliance, an international affiliation of law firms. For more information, please visit


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