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May 28, 2013 02:45 PM EDT

Starbucks Tip Jar At The Center of A New York High Court Case

Starbucks
(Photo : Flickr.com) The high court's decision on stip sharing will depend on what the Court of Appeals defines as an "agent" of the company.

The Starbucks tip jar is the subject of a New York high court case that will determine who should receive a share of the tips, reported the Associated Press.

"Agents" of the company are prohibited by law from receiving tips, so the Court of Appeals was asked by a federal court to interpret what New York's labor law defined as an agent.

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First, there are baristas who serve customers and share tips based on how many hours they worked in a given week. Next, there are shift supervisors who have limited management responsibilities and who also share tips. Lastly, there are assistant managers who do not receive any gratuities and want to.

According to the AP, hospitality industry groups say the court decision will affect more than just the Seattle-based coffee company. There are approximately 42,000 businesses statewide and a quarter of a million hospitality industry workers in the city alone who could feel the effects from the decision.

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan is representing the baristas who oppose sharing tips weekly. Attorney Adam Klein is represent the assistant managers who say they also spend time serving customers and deserve tips.

"Starbucks has not seriously disputed that its shift supervisors are supervisors," Liss-Riordan told the AP.

Klein argued that since assistant managers do not have authority to hire or fire anyone, they cannot be considered agents of the company.

Spokesman for Starbucks Zack Hutson said the company's policy ensures that baristas and shift supervisors share tips because both spend more than 90 percent of their time serving customers, the AP reported.

The company's policy states assistant managers cannot share in tips because they receive salaried wages and are "rewarded with performance-based bonuses and other benefits not available to their subordinates."

One federal judge ruled that shift supervisors do not have the appropriate amount of authority to be considered agents of the company, but the status of assistant managers still had to be determined.

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