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Employment Attorney Discusses Legalities of Starbucks Tip Jars

Albany, NY employment attorney Graig Zappia of Tully Rinckey PLLC spoke with ABC affiliate News10 regarding recent lawsuits against Starbucks coffee.

The Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is reviewing separate lawsuits against Starbucks. The first is by baristas who argue that shift supervisors should not be included in the tip sharing. The second is by assistant managers, who believe they should be allowed tips.

Starbucks Spokesperson Zack Hutson says their tipping policy ensures the Starbucks partners who directly serve customers – both baristas and shift supervisors, who are both hourly workers – share equally in the tips they receive. Assistant managers don’t receive tips and are salaried.

“Shift supervisors spend well over 90 percent of their time providing the same world-class customer service as baristas. Together with the benefits we provide — including competitive wages, healthcare for eligible full- and part-time partners and company stock — we believe our approach to tipping helps us provide the Starbucks Experience that both our partners and customers expect from our company. We strongly believe that our tipping policy is fair and appropriate under New York state law, and we are pleased with the federal district court’s previous rulings which dismissed the two cases currently before the court upon finding that our tipping policy is fair and appropriate under New York state law,” Hutson said.

NEWS CENTER spoke to attorney Graig Zappia, an employment law attorney, from Tully Rinckey PLLC in Albany about the lawsuit.

Zappia says NY State Law states that anyone who is an “agent” of the company is not allowed to have tips, but the definition of who an “agent” is at the center of the arguments.

“Someone who’s a store manager and all they do is manage employees, do payroll, hire and fire individuals. I think they’re going to be out of the tip jar, they’re going to be an agent of the employer,” Zappia said.

But at Starbucks, and like most of the 42,000 hospitality businesses in NY State, sometimes managers also work directly with customers. And, whether or not they should also be allowed tips is up to the courts to decide.


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