Fredrickson v. Starbucks Corp., No. 13-36067 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, three former baristas, filed a class action against Starbucks, challenging the legality of Starbucks’ practice of withholding state and federal taxes from baristas’ paychecks based on the cash tips they receive. As a general practice, the baristas do not report to Starbucks how much they receive in tips. Instead, for tax withholding purposes, the company simply imputes 50 cents per hour in estimated tip income to each barista and withholds state and federal taxes from the baristas’ paychecks based on that amount. The district court granted Starbucks' motion to dismiss. The court concluded that, under the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. 1341, and the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(a), the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The court also concluded that the federal-state comity doctrine bars the district court from awarding statutory damages on the state-tax component of plaintiffs’ claims, from which the federal-tax component cannot be severed. Because all of the claims are jurisdictionally barred or foreclosed by the comity doctrine, the court concluded that the entire action must be remanded to state court. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded.