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Court says baristas must share tips

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

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. The court also ruled that the company can deny those tips to assistant managers.

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

In a similar Massachusetts case with a different outcome, a US Court of Appeals panel in Boston in November upheld a lower court ruling that found Starbucks Corp. owed Massachusetts baristas more than $14 million for violating state laws by allowing supervisors to share in tips pools.

Starbucks baristas are part-time workers who serve customers and share tips weekly based on hours worked. They can be promoted after six months to shift supervisors.

Shift supervisors are also part-time wage workers who mostly serve customers but also assign baristas, provide input on their performance, and direct the flow of customers.

Assistant managers are full time, get some benefits such as paid holidays and vacations, and are eligible for bonuses.

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