California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

Managers Who Provide Table Service May Share in Tip Pool -- Appellate Court Reverses Award Against Starbucks

As we previously blogged, Starbucks was hammered last year with a class restitution award of $105 million in a fight over the ownership of the change dropped in its tip jars.   The central issue was whether store managers who also served customers could share in the tips which were left for all servers.  The trial court took the technical line that Labor Code section 351 prohibits any "agent" of the employer from sharing in tips -- period.

The Appellate Court reversed and took a considerably more common sense approach, explaining

There is no decisional or statutory authority prohibiting an employer from allowing a service employee to keep a portion of the collective tip, in proportion to the amount of hours worked, merely because the employee also has limited supervisory duties. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and order the trial court to enter judgment in Starbucks's favor.

 Employers should not jump to the conclusion, however, that managers now have free reign to sharing in employee tips.  Rather, the rule in  Chau v. Starbucks decision  applies only where (a) There is a "collective tip box" or analogous circumstances in which "a customer would necessarily understand the tip will be shared among the employees who provide the service;" and (b) the managerial employee is part of the "team" that provided the service.  

 

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