June 27, 2013

Ruling in Starbucks case clarifies tip-sharing

The decision in New York will help many businesses in handling the daily tip pool, a trade group says.

The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. - Starbucks baristas must share their tips with shift supervisors, but assistant managers are left out in the cold, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday.

click image to enlarge

Starbucks employees Tracy Bryant, right, and Roland Smith watch as a manager Justin Chapple demonstrates how to make an espresso at a Starbucks in New York.

2008 Associated Press file

The Court of Appeals found that shift supervisors do much of the same work as the coffee servers and therefore get to share in the tips. It also ruled that the company, which is based in Seattle, can deny those tips to assistant managers.

The ruling, responding to two lawsuits, backed Starbucks' policy of divvying up the tips, saying it's consistent with labor law.

Hospitality industry groups say the court's decision likely will affect policies at similar restaurants and coffee houses and will affect 42,000 businesses statewide and a quarter-million hospitality industry workers in New York City alone.

The New York State Restaurant Association, representing about 56,000 restaurants, bars and clubs, called the decision a win for all New York hospitality employers seeking clarity on how to compensate employees.

"In this business, many staff members share all kinds of responsibilities, and now we have an understanding of who can participate in the tip pool," association president Rick Sampson said.

The association filed a statement in the lawsuits supporting Starbucks Corp., which had said that its assistant managers shouldn't share in the tips.

At a Starbucks on Manhattan's West Side, baristas said company policy did not allow them to comment, and customers were split on the question.

"Whoever is directly serving you should get the tip," said Marco Tan, a data analyst. "Why? Because they're helping you, and someone else isn't."

Evren Vural, an architect, wasn't so sure.

"If the barista and the supervisor are doing some of the same work, they should share," he said, adding, however, that if the supervisor is not doing the work, "then it's not fair to share."


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