California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year

California Lawyer, March 2009

[Laura] Ho and [David] Lowe won a $105 million judgment against coffee mega-chain Starbucks, along with an injunction mandating changed employment practices, on behalf of baristas whose tips were pooled with supervisors compensation in violation of state law. The pair went to trial in San Diego after A. Eric Aguilera of Bohm, Matsen, Kegel & Aguilera in Costa Mesa and Coronado sole practitioner Terry J. Chapko certified a class of 125,000 current and former employees whod worked as baristas in California since October 2000. The trial court found last fall that Starbucks violated California Labor Code section 351, which prohibits an employer and its agents from collecting any part of gratuity left for an employee by a patron ( Chau v. Starbucks Corp., No. GIC 836925 (San Diego Super. Ct.)). The case has potentially far-reaching implications for workers-including many in the restaurant, salon, and gaming industries in the 30 states that have a similar tipping regulations. Although an appeal is slated to be heard this year, the decision has already sparked similar class actions against Starbucks in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York.