The highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, ruled that Starbucks baristas must share their tips with shift supervisors but not with assistant managers — a decision that could alter how tens of thousands of employees are compensated in restaurants and coffeehouses across the state. The ruling found that shift supervisors and coffee servers do similar work and should therefore share in the tips. The decision came as a response to two lawsuits and backed the policy of divvying up the tips that Starbucks currently has in place.
"An employee whose personal service to patrons is a principal or regular part of his or her duties may participate in an employer-mandated tip allocation arrangement ... even if that employee possesses limited supervisory responsibilities," the court said in its ruling.
"We believe that there comes a point at which the degree of managerial responsibility becomes so substantial that the individual can no longer fairly be characterized as an employee similar to general wait staff," the court said in addressing why assistant managers should not be tipped out.
The New York State Restaurant Association called the ruling a victory because it now clearly establishes how hospitality employers should expect to be compensated.
"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," said association president Rick Sampson.
Customers at a Starbucks on Manhattan's West Side had differing opinions about the decision, Fox News reported.
"Whoever is directly serving you should get the tip," said Marco Tan. "Why? Because they're helping you, and someone else isn't."
Another patron, Evren Vural, thought of things a little differently.
"If the barista and the supervisor are doing some of the same work, they should share," he said, but added that if the supervisor is not doing the work, "then it's not fair to share."