Federal court panel upholds judgment against Starbucks in 2008 tips case, chain owes baristas more than $14 million

A US Court of Appeals panel in Boston upheld a lower court ruling that found Starbucks owes Massachusetts baristas more than $14 million for violating state laws preventing supervisors from sharing in tips pools.

Starbucks baristas challenged the Seattle coffee chain’s practice of requiring them to share tips left by customers with shift supervisors, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in 2008. Last year, a federal judge ruled against Starbucks and the company appealed that decision.

Starbucks, which did not return messages seeking comment, had argued that shift supervisors did not have managerial responsibilities.

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Shannon Liss-Riordan, an attorney representing the workers, said the ruling to uphold the lower court’s decision, issued on Friday, affects roughly 11,000 baristas who worked at Starbucks between 2005 and 2011. She said interest on the judgment raises the total closer to $18 million.

Liss-Riordan said she also filed a follow-up case because Starbucks has continued the practice of forcing tips to be shared. That case was stayed pending the US Court of Appeals ruling. She expects the judgment and interest in the second case to total nearly $6 million.

“Just because they’re Starbucks, they can’t ignore the law that protects Massachusetts workers,” Liss-Riordan said.