Category Archives: Tips and service charges

Starbucks

We filed cases against Starbucks in Massachusetts and New York on behalf of baristas challenging the company’s practice of requiring tips to be shared with shift supervisors. We won this issue in Massachusetts. The federal courts in Massachusetts agreed with our interpretation, ruling that Starbucks’ tip sharing policy violates the law of Massachusetts, which requires that only employees with no managerial responsibility may share in tip pools. The magistrate judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and class certification, which was affirmed by the district court in March 2011. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed this decision in November 2012. In New York, the case was certified to the state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. The court held that shift supervisors can participate in a tip pool under New York law.

Skycaps

In 2008, we won a jury trial against American Airlines, challenging the airline’s collection of a $2 per bag charge for curbside check-in and not allowing skycaps to keep this money. After this trial, most airlines stopped charging the $2 per bag fee.

The case was on appeal twice. We won the first appeal in 2009, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected American’s argument that it could not be liable to skycaps whom it did not directly employ. The Court reinstated the $333,000 verdict for the skycaps who were part of the initial trial. Click here to read the Court’s decision. Click here to watch the oral argument.

In the second appeal, the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in American’s favor and decided that the case is preempted by federal law, thus reversing the verdict we obtained at trial for the nine original Boston skycaps. We filed a petition to appeal this decision to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

After the jury verdict in favor of the American skycaps, we brought similar claims on behalf of United and US Airways skycaps. The courts ruled that those cases were preempted.

In a companion case we filed against American, which the federal court certified as a national class action on behalf of American skycaps across the country, we have argued that the case should not be preempted under recent Supreme Court caselaw. The district court has ruled that the case is preempted, but we are appealing that ruling.

Hawaii Hotel

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Major Cases

Amero v. Townsend Oil Company, 2008 WL 5609064 (Mass. Super. 2008) (in one of the first decisions issued under the Massachusetts Independent Contractor statute, the court held as a matter of law that an oil delivery employee had been wrongfully misclassified as an independent contractor)

Welch v. Town of Stoughton, 542 F.3d 927 (1st Cir. 2008) (won appeal and jury verdict finding that the Town of Stoughton had violated the First Amendment and whistleblower rights of a sergeant in the Town’s police department)

In The News

Mr. Lichten was named a 2003 Lawyer of the Year by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

Cable company loses bid to end overtime class action
Law 360 | October, 2013

11th Circ. revives cable installers’ contractor status case
Law 360 | July, 2013

Black police officials sue city
Boston Globe| February, 2012

Police hit with bias decision; Two officers may be due ‘millions’
Worcester Telegram | November, 2011

TGI Friday’s

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Harvard

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Strippers

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Retaliation

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Tips, Gratuities, and Service Charges

We pioneered litigation on behalf of tipped employees who have not received the total proceeds of tips and service charges paid by customers for their benefit. For the last fifteen years, we have represented thousands of waitstaff in many dozens of lawsuits against restaurants, hotels, country clubs, catering companies, and other establishments that have failed to distribute, or have skimmed from, employee gratuities, or allowed these gratuities to be shared with ineligible employees (such as management or non-service employees).

We have won jury trials in several tips cases, as well as a number of ground-breaking appellate decisions, summary judgment orders, and settlements. Following our original work developing the law protecting tipped employees in Massachusetts, we have brought these cases around the country, including in Hawaii, Florida, New York, and California. In Hawaii, after two trips to the Hawaii Supreme Court, we established the right of waitstaff employees to recover under the wage laws for service charges not distributed in full to employees.

If you have worked as a service employee anywhere in the country, and have been required to share your tips with management or non-service employees, or have not received the total proceeds of service charges billed to customers, feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Court revives SF hotel workers’ suit over tips
SF Gate | March, 2017

Four Seasons To Fork Over $4M To Settle Server Tips Suit
Law360 | October, 2013

Hawaii High Court OKs Worker Wage Suits Over State Tip Law
Law360 | July, 2013

Hawaii Supreme Court rules in favor of workers in hotel tip case
Star Advertiser | July, 2013

Tips Scams Revealed (video)
TEDxBeaconStreet | November, 2013

Starbucks restructures ‘shift supervisor’ position in Mass
Nation’s Restaurant News | January, 2013

Starbucks Workers Tips Suit Scores $14 Million Win Against Coffee Giant
The Huffington Post | November, 2012

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan: Challenging Corporate Power and Tips Abuse
Lawyers and Settlements | April, 2008

Logan skycaps win fight for tips
Boston Globe | April, 2008

Wave of tip pooling lawsuits snares more operators
Nation’s Restaurant News | October, 2006

Steak house may be liable for $2.5m Suit against Lynn may have wide effect
The Boston Globe | July, 2006