June 3, 2009

Ruling tips in Starbucks’ favor

A California appeals court saved Starbucks Corp. $100 million, ruling supervisors can keep their share of gratuities taken from counter top tip jars.

San Diego County Superior Court Judge Patricia Cowett issued the previous ruling on a complaint filed in 2004 on behalf of more than 100,000 Starbucks servers, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Cowett ruled Starbucks should not have allowed supervisors to take a share of tips and ordered the company to compensate baristas with $86 million in lost income and $20 million in lost interest.

But the appeals court said supervisors at the nation's premier coffee chain essentially perform the same job as baristas.

The applicable statutes do not prohibit Starbucks from permitting shift supervisors to share in the proceeds placed in collective tip boxes, the appeals court said.

David Lowe, a lawyer for the servers said the case would continue. We will be looking to the California Supreme Court to fix this error, he said.

On average, shift supervisors make $3 more an hour than servers, supervisor Tameko Aubry told the Times.

Starbucks argued that shift supervisors take customer orders and pour coffee and should be entitled to a share of a store's collective tips.