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New York Court Rules Some Starbucks Supervisors Eligible For Tip-Pooling

A recent opinion by the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, said that Starbucks baristas are now obligated to share their tips with shift supervisors. The fight over tip pooling will be a boon to supervisors, but the assistant managers were left out.

According to the Court of Appeals ruling, shift supervisors do much the same work as coffee servers and therefore deserve to share in the tips received exclusively by baristas. However, managers were found to have uniquely defined roles in the workplace and thus were not owed tip money.

Baristas are part-time workers who serve coffee to customers and share tips weekly based on the hours they work. They can be promoted after six months on the job and can then become shift supervisors. Shift supervisors are also part-time workers who generally serve coffee to customers. However, supervisors are also responsible for assigning baristas to specific tasks and are also required to provide input on baristas’ performance and the operations of the branch. Assistance managers are full time workers who receive benefits, paid holidays and vacation days and are also eligible for performance-based bonuses.

The ruling came after two lawsuits by employees who wanted the issue of tip sharing to be clarified. One suit was on behalf of assistant managers who argue that they spend the bulk of their time interacting with customers and are thus entitled to a share of the tips. The argument was that because the managers did not have hiring and firing power, the assistant managers were not company agents under labor law.

The Court found that while it is true that even supervisory employees who regularly provide direct service to patrons ought to be eligible for tip-pooling, there is a line that can be drawn between that and assistant managers. The majority opinion held that employees who are given authority or control over subordinates cannot be considered similar to waiters or busboys and thus are not eligible to participate in the tip pool.

The ruling means that Starbucks’ existing policy will continue, with the Court of Appeals finding that it is consistent with New York labor law. The ruling is expected to have a major impact not only on what goes on in Starbucks across the state, but in nearly a 50,000 New York businesses that could similarly share tips.

Source: “Court Rules Starbucks Baristas Must Share Tips With Shift Supervisors,” published at Seattle.CBSLocal.com.

Source: “New York Court Sides With Starbucks on Tip Rules,” by Steven Greenhouse, published at NYTimes.com.

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