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Class Action Challenges Starbucks Including Shift Supervisors in Barista Tip Pools

Tip pooling can be an effective way to make sure that everyone who helps customers gets a share of the tips given, particularly in coffee shops where customers are often helped by multiple people to get a single cup of coffee. However, as this blog has mentioned, companies need to be careful to make sure all managers are excluded from the tip pool.

Starbucks has been dealing with a class action lawsuit filed by and on behalf of its Massachusetts baristas. The lawsuit claims that shift supervisors cannot legally be included in a tip pool because they are managers which are, by definition, excluded from tip pools under Massachusetts law.

According to Starbucks though, the shift supervisors are wait staff, rather than managers, and that the only substantial difference between shift supervisors and baristas is that baristas are part-time hourly employees while shift supervisors are full-time salaried employees.

These claims were rejected however and the baristas were granted class status in February of 2011 when a judge ruled that shift supervisors have at least some managerial responsibilities. Because of these duties, they are ineligible for the tip pool under the Massachusetts statute. The class includes everyone who worked as a barista at Starbucks in the state of Massachusetts from March 25, 2004 to February 8, 2011.

Starbucks continues to dispute this ruling, saying that, unlike managers, neither baristas nor shift supervisors have the authority to compel obedience if a co-worker disobeys a direction or request. Starbucks has also pointed out that the representatives of the class do not properly represent those employees who were baristas during the class period but have since been promoted to shift supervisors and are currently reaping the benefits of the tip pool.

Despite these arguments, Judge Gorton of the District of Massachusetts awarded $14.1 million to the class. Starbucks has recently appealed that decision in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit where it is awaiting review.


The attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating tip pool claims against Starbucks and other restaurant chains. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kane and Cook Counties. Our Wheaton and Naperville overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages. The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago wage and hour attorney by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.