Starbucks reaches deal with EEOC over alleged racial discrimination

Starbucks bags with free items, in recognition of Starbucks Coffee slated to be placed at the CollegeTowne site in Reading, Pa. On January 12, 2021.

Ben Hasty | MediaNews Group | Read Eagle via Getty Images

Starbucks said on Wednesday it had resolved allegations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of alleged racial bias in employee promotions, based on data from 2007 to 2011.

In a letter to employees, CEO Kevin Johnson said Starbucks did not know what motivated the EEOC’s claims and that the company’s analysis of its own data did not show systemic discrimination in promotions at the level. some stores.

“The agreement is not only the right thing for the partners, it has also led us to focus more resources on the structural changes necessary to support the career progression of the partners and ensure that each partner has the opportunity to inquire about promotion opportunities, ”Johnson wrote.

The deal with the federal agency was disclosed in Starbucks’ third annual civil rights assessment by law firm Covington & Burling. The law firm said in the report that it is not representing Starbucks in the case and is not independently investigating the allegations.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company was in an intermittent dialogue with the EEOC before reaching a deal earlier this year. The spokesperson declined to say if there was a financial penalty, citing the confidentiality of the legal matter.

To make the coffee shop employee promotion process more formal and transparent, the company is developing an app tracking system that displays all retail jobs and includes ways to track data. Store managers will no longer be able to promote workers outside of the formal promotion framework, and the company is rolling out new training for managers involved in hiring decisions, including new interview guides.

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The responsibilities of the Starbucks Inclusion and Diversity team will expand to include oversight of compliance and analytics and ensuring that diversity goals play a role in business decision making. The company also hired a freelance labor economist to analyze the data, create promotion goals, and track its progress toward those goals.

The company first commissioned a civil rights assessment from Covington & Burling in 2019, months after police arrested two black men who had yet to order at a Philadelphia cafe. The backlash that resulted from the incident led the company to shut down all of its company-run sites for a day of racial bias training and to make stronger commitments to be more inclusive.

Following the Black Lives Matter protests that began at the end of May last year, Starbucks has made additional commitments to upholding racial justice and fairness, including in its own workplace. It updated its “third place policy”, including adding specific examples of unacceptable behavior, such as hate speech or racial slurs, and provided de-escalation training for baristas. In October, Starbucks said it would tie executive compensation to new diversity goals. Earlier in March, Starbucks promoted Dennis Brockman to global director of inclusion and diversity.

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