Starbucks baristas must share their tips with shift supervisors, a federal appeals court said today. An attorney representing the baristas called the ruling "unfortunate" and said it lets employers subsidize the pay of its supervisors with money that should be going to their lowest-wage workers. A company spokesperson said it was fair because shift supervisors spend most of their time doing the same work as baristas. The legal background in the case is a little convoluted: The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals based its findings in part on a June ruling by New York State's highest court that excluded assistant managers from receiving a share of the tips.
Citing the findings by the New York Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit said it was undisputed that Starbucks' shift supervisors spend a majority of time performing the same duties as baristas: serving food and beverages to customers. And while they also supervise the baristas and give them feedback on performance, they aren't responsible for hiring or firing. "Thus, while shift supervisors may be able to coach baristas, they cannot formally discipline them," the panel said. "On this record, no fact finder could conclude that shift supervisors have such a 'substantial' degree of 'managerial responsibility' that they are no longer akin to 'general wait staff.'" The upshot is that part-time baristas and shift supervisors will split tips, but those full-time assistant managers are still out of luck.