The Starbuck’s coffee chain closed 8,000 stores and offices across the U.S. for three or more hours on May 29 for anti-bias training. All sites would remain closed afterwards for the rest of the day. Starting after lunch rush, an estimated 180,000 employees received a “tool kit” that focused on educating them on “prejudice and the history of public accommodations in the U.S.” According to the company, this is the first of a series that will address all types of bias and experience.
This is in response to a very public misstep by the company where two black men in Philadelphia were arrested on April 12 for sitting in a Starbuck’s and not ordering anything. They were led away in handcuff and charged with trespassing. They were later released without being charged; nonetheless, the news set off angry protests around the country with claims of racial profiling.
A quick course correction
Starbuck’s CEO Kevin Johnson later visited Philadelphia to apologize personally for the treatment the two men received and announced that the training would take place.
According to USA Today, the May closure for training cost the company more than $12 million in profit. It goes on to point out that this will be seen as a major step toward repairing the company’s image now and boost its long-term brand.
The company also took the step closing the sessions to the media, though it did provide the training materials for the media to preview. According to the company, the idea for the closed session was to provide a safe environment for employees to speak frankly about such important topics as race, gender, class and sexuality.
All companies can take lessons from this
Conscious or unconscious bias is something that all employers need to be aware of. Guidance from a knowledgeable business and corporate law attorney can provide owners and managers with policies and strategies to ensure that their working environment is safe, healthy, respects all employees, and is compliant with all applicable laws.