Starbucks baristas get to keep $14M class-action award



About 2,500 Starbucks baristas in Massachusetts will get to keep more than $14 million awarded to them when a court ruled the company's tipping policy is illegal in the state.

The class-action initiated in 2008 by current and former baristas claimed they should not be forced to share their tips with shift supervisors. A federal court ruled in their favour and awarded them damages totalling $14,126,542 plus interest.

The state's Tips Act says wait staff employees are not required to share tips with anyone who is not a wait staff employee.

The federal appeals court based in Boston on Friday upheld the decision, rejecting Starbucks' claim that shift supervisors are wait staff, not managers, and called the chain's interpretation "hair splitting."

"The Tips Act states unequivocally that only employees who possess 'no managerial responsibility' may qualify as 'wait staff,'" Judge Bruce Selya wrote in the decision.

"After careful consideration of a fundamental (and previously unanswered) interpretative question, we hold that the plain language of the Tips Act prohibits the defendant's tip-pooling policy," Selya wrote. "We also reject the parties' other claims of error. When all is said and done, we leave the combatants where we found them."

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