The suit originated when Starbucks baristas complained about sharing tips with shift supervisors. Under California law, tips can be pooled amongst employees, but cannot be shared with owners or managers. While shift supervisors share some of the same duties as baristas, they additionally control the work of the baristas and are paid slightly higher wages.

The Focal Point’s Role

The Focal Point conducted a Mental Mining session with long-time client, David Lowe, of Rudy, Exelrod & Zieff, to identify case themes that would be developed into graphics for both the liability and restitution phases of trial. Our graphics played a key role in demonstrating the major differences between the barista and shift supervisor positions. Mr. Lowe used the graphics to demonstrate that shift supervisors would often take on a managerial role when the manager was not present in the store.


In February 2008, the judge ruled that Starbucks shift supervisors are agents under California law and therefore fall under the California restriction against employees sharing tips. She followed the ruling a month later with a reported $105.8 million judgment against Starbucks to be paid to baristas employed during the class period.


Superior Court of the State of California (San Diego)

The Focal Point’s Client Rudy ExelrodDavid Lowe