Apr 02, 2008

Starbucks Baristas Get a Venti Tip

tipjar.jpgA California court recently awarded more than $100 million to current and former baristas at Starbucks, after they won a class action lawsuit claiming that the coffee chain forced them to share their tips with their supervisors. Apparently, once all the tip jars were emptied, the contents were shared among not only the baristas but also the supervisors on their shifts.

Tip pooling, or "tipping out," refers to the common practice of requiring tipped employees to share all or part of their tips with each other. Tip pooling arrangements can be legal, but only if they meet a number of requirements. The most important one: No employers are allowed in the pool. Tips belong to employees. Although they may sometimes be required to share tips with each other, they can't be required to share with the boss. And California law also prohibits any agent of the employer -- including anyone who has the right to hire, fire, supervise, direct, or control the work of employees -- from sharing in tips.

In case you were wondering how much the average Starbucks barista earns in tips, the answer is not much: $1.71 an hour, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. But apparently, shift supervisors really work a lot of hours. The judge arrived at the damages portion of the award by multiplying that hourly tip rate by 50,694,694, the estimated hours worked by shift supervisors during the time period covered by the lawsuit.

One of the attorneys involved in the case said that some baristas could receive as much as $10,000 as a result of the decision. They shouldn't start spending that money any time soon, however: Starbucks has vowed not only to appeal the decision, but also to continue allowing supervisors to share in the tips.

Lisa Guerin