Starbucks Discrimination Training and What Companies Can Learn from 5/29

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP
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On May 29, 2018, over 8,000 Starbucks locations around the country closed for an afternoon to conduct anti-bias training. During this time, over 175,000 Starbucks employees participated in the training focused on addressing implicit bias, promoting conscious inclusion, preventing discrimination, and ensuring Starbucks customers feel safe and welcome.

This training follows a much-publicized incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April, when two black men were arrested while sitting and waiting for an associate to arrive. A Starbucks employee called 911 after one of the men asked to use the restroom before buying anything, and then remained in the shop. Other patrons took videos of the arrests, which went viral and picked up nation-wide attention. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized for the incident, and announced Starbucks would be closing the afternoon of May 29 to conduct racial-bias education training for over 175,000 employees. The training will also become a part of the hiring process for new employees.

To conduct their training, Starbucks used a training video, which will be available for other companies to use.

A video previewing the training gave an overview of the curriculum Starbucks used. The preview video states the training is Starbucks' commitment to "the Third Place." This represents the Starbucks goal of becoming "the Third Place" in people's lives, i.e. home, work, and Starbucks. The training explores "the Third Place" and its relation to Starbucks' mission, and then moves into "a real and honest exploration of bias." The training relays workers' experiences, the realities and impact of racial discrimination in public accommodations both historically and today, and shows the film “You’re Welcome” by Stanley Nelson. Following the film, the training video depicts reactions from senior leaders at Starbucks, as well as recommitments to policy, guidelines, and leadership. In the preview video, the narration states, "Ultimately, 5/29 will focus on creating belonging in our stores and learning about what gets in the way."

Employers and companies can learn from Starbucks and can work to prevent incidents involving bias and discrimination through preventative training. While many companies often have anti-discrimination policies, employers are less likely to train their employees on these policies, and even less likely to train employees regularly. Training to prevent discrimination in the workplace can not only limit an employer's liability in a potential lawsuit, but can also help foster a healthy and welcoming company culture.

 

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