Court eyes who can tap Starbucks’ tip jars

A barista prepares to serve sample-sized coffee cups before the annual Starbucks shareholders meeting in Seattle in March 2012. (AP/Elaine Thompson, File)

Elaine Thompson

Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — Starbucks is defending its tip-sharing policy with its attorney telling in New York’s top court that baristas and shift supervisors divide up the cash jar weekly because they essentially provide the same customer service.

Attorney Rex Heinke says assistant store managers are excluded because they have an essentially different role and “real power” over the others.

He says Tuesday that the employer’s role is to come up with “a reasonable, fair system” and the company does have authority to exclude from tip-sharing even those employees deemed eligible under state law.

The Court of Appeals has been asked to interpret New York labor law and its definition of an employer’s “agent,” who is prohibited from tip sharing, in connection with two federal lawsuits against Starbucks.