Starbucks Challenges Ruling Under the Massachusetts Tip Act that “Shift Supervisors” Should Not Share Tips With Baristas

| Marcus, Ellen

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Companies that do business across state lines are subject to a patchwork of state and local laws governing their relationship with their employees at all levels in the chain of command. Especially for companies that do business in many different states, keeping up with the applicable laws can be full-time work.  On Monday, we highlighted a new law in Illinois that arguably gives employees and job applicants rights in their interactions with employers that they would not otherwise have.  A recent appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit of a ruling (the district court order upholding the magistrate’s report and recommendation is here) further underscores the variation in states’ laws when it comes to protections for employees.  Starbucks' recent brief on appeal is here.

Generally speaking, the Massachusetts Tip Law prohibits employers from requiring a “wait staff employee” to participate in a tip pool if it means sharing tips with anyone other than a “wait staff employee.”  A “wait staff employee” is defined as having “no managerial responsibility.”  The Starbucks case turns on the relatively simple issue of whether its shift supervisors have any “managerial responsibility,” such that Starbucks should not have required its baristas (wait staff employees) to share tips with them.   We will see how the First Circuit comes down on the issue.