The Starbucks corporation is being hit with a $105 million lawsuit for breaking a U.S. law barring management from sharing a percentage of the tip jar. The reasoning behind the law is to keep managers who have fewer serving duties from hijacking tips from lower-level employees. Rightly, those managers should not be taking tips that are ultimately not intended for them. The lawsuit objected to Starbucks shift supervisors from taking a share of tips, because it considers shift supervisors to be managers.
However, in a business such as a coffee shop, the line between shift supervisor and barista is blurred. If a customer goes to Starbucks, it will be nearly impossible for this patron to tell the difference between the shift supervisor and barista, because both perform many of the same tasks. Both take orders and serve coffee, and as such, both should receive appropriate helpings from the tip jar. Shift supervisors do the work that tips are intended to reward, so there is no reason why they should not receive this extra compensation.
From the employee’s point of view, the line between manager, shift supervisor and barista is also blurred. The shift supervisor has many managerial responsibilities and is oftentimes the most senior employee during some shifts. Starbucks shift supervisors do have increased pay when they get to the position, but the resulting increases are by no means large enough to necessitate a revoked share in the tips. The shift supervisor’s salary is capped at $13 per hour, while the barista’s starting pay is at $9.50 per hour. The company is saving money by not promoting shift supervisors to managers although there is overlap in the responsibilities of both positions. In light of the confusion over compensation and duties, Starbucks should better clarify its expectations of different positions.
The Starbucks locations in Davis have resisted this lawsuit, and the employees continue to share the tips with shift supervisors involved in the sale and brewing of coffee. Nevertheless, as the corporation has probably already seen, it must clarify the expectations of its managers in writing, labeling their main job description as barista while ensuring their fair share of tips.