What is in this article?:
- Starbucks restructures 'shift supervisor' position in Mass.
- Reworking the hierarchy to create opportunity
A spokeswoman for the company says Starbucks could be responsible for paying about $14 million in damages.
Starbucks is restructuring the “shift supervisor” position this month in its Massachusetts stores as a result of a recent court ruling that prohibits employees in a managerial role from participating in tip pools there.
In November, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Massachusetts affirmed an earlier district court ruling that Starbucks’ tip-sharing policy violated state law. At issue was whether shift supervisors — hourly workers that perform the same duties as baristas and more — could share in the gratuities left by customers.
Across the restaurant industry, tip pooling has been a challenging issue. In several states, current and former restaurant chain employees have filed lawsuits citing violations of federal and state laws that regulate the sharing of tips. Starbucks, however, has been snagged by such lawsuits in several states because the shift supervisor position falls into somewhat of a grey area, depending on the language of the various state laws.
Massachusetts state law prohibits employees with managerial responsibility from sharing tips. Under the ruling, Starbucks’ shift supervisors were determined to have certain supervisory duties and therefore could not participate in tip pools — leaving the coffeehouse chain liable for reimbursing baristas who were forced to share their gratuities between 2005 and 2011.
Starbucks could be responsible for paying about $14 million in damages, according to the ruling, though the court has not yet determined the amount, said Jaime Riley, a spokeswoman for the company.
In California, state laws also prohibit managers from sharing in tips, and a similar lawsuit was filed by baristas there. The class action made it to the state Supreme Court where, in 2009, it was declined review, essentially upholding earlier rulings that permitted shift supervisors to share in tips.
In New York, another class-action suit against Starbucks is pending before the state Court of Appeals. Like in California, the federal trial court in New York dismissed a similar challenge by baristas, and, so far, the courts have determined that Starbucks’ shift supervisors can share in tips. A definitive ruling by the state court of appeals is expected later this year.