Chau v. Starbucks Corp., 174 Cal. App. 4th 688 (2009)

Jou Chau, a former Starbucks “barista,” brought a class action against the company, challenging Starbucks’ policy of permitting shift supervisors to share in tips that customers place in a collective tip box. Chau alleged the policy violated California’s Unfair Competition Law based on a violation of Labor Code § 351. The trial court certified a class consisting of thousands of current and former baristas from 1,350 Starbucks stores in California and, after finding liability, awarded the class $86 million in restitution. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, concluding that Starbucks had not violated the statute by allowing the shift supervisors (who spent more than 90 percent of their time performing the same service tasks as the baristas) to keep a portion of the collective tips merely because those employees also had limited supervisory duties.