New York's Supreme Court heard Tuesday from Starbucks baristas and managers in a tip-jar dispute that has pitted low-level workers against assistant managers and the chain over who can receive cash tips from customers.

According to the AP, the state's Court of Appeals will interpret New York labor law and its definition of an employer's "agent," who is prohibited from tip sharing. The debate is in connection with two lawsuits against the coffee giant, which has always allowed baristas and shift supervisors — but not assistant managers — access to tips.

The federal court is asking the state court to decide the following: What factors determine whether an employee is an agent of the company? And does state law permit an employer to exclude an otherwise eligible tip-earning employee from sharing in such a tip pool?

The state court decision, according to hospitality experts, will not only affect Starbucks but also 42,000 New York businesses statewide and a quarter-million hospitality industry workers in NYC.

Read more about coffee in the fast casual industry.

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