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National Coffeehouse Chain Reaches Settlement Over Racial Bias in Promotions

In March 2021, Starbucks entered into a voluntary agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over accusations of racial bias in the promotion of employees. While there were no singular cases or incidents pointing to this accusation, the company did submit a new plan for promoting internally. The standardized methods will mandate managers to follow company procedures in the hiring of new employees and the promotion of existing ones. Workers must apply to open positions, internally or externally, to be considered for roles.

Starbucks has been embroiled in race-related controversy before. In 2020, employees raised concerns over censorship of allowed messages with their uniform. The corporation has acknowledged past failures and claims they will strive to do better, including the revision of hiring practices to promote company-wide diversity.

What can Constitute as Bias in Hiring and Employment?

Federal law says employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Gender or gender identity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy status
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability

The primary concern in the Starbucks complaint is the implicit bias often linked to informal hiring practices. While some workers will inevitably stand out for superior work performance, oftentimes, offering a new hire or moving an existing employee up the ladder can require a judgement call.

To mitigate this implicit bias, Starbucks has taken away much of that autonomy and will now regulate and track application data and promotional opportunities, establish new training and interview guides for hiring managers, who will be encouraged to make merit-based and equity-based decisions in their process. The company does have more diversity at the retail level compared to the corporate level.

How are Bias Allegations Handled?

The EEOC tries to keep current and prospective employees from experiencing bias by offering preventative measures, including educational programs, employer outreach programs, and technical assistance. The commission operates 53 field offices across the United States.

Despite all the resources available and the established laws, there are still instances where job applicants and employed workers feel they are being discriminated. The EEOC will cover most companies with 15 or more employees, 20 or more in the case of age discrimination, along with unions and employment agencies. They handle claims involving:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Harassment
  • Training
  • Wages
  • Benefits

A worker bringing a claim to the EEOC can expect the commission to investigate the claim fairly and accurately. The commission will make a finding and attempt to resolve if discrimination has occurred. In some cases, the EEOC will file a lawsuit if the issue is not corrected, the actions are particularly egregious, or if there is a wider concern that affects more employees beyond the company in question. To strengthen a claim, a discriminated worker should speak to a lawyer.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Help Workers with Discrimination Cases

Despite state and federal laws, many employees continue to experience discrimination at work. If you need help with your discrimination case, the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. can help you get the relief you deserve. Call us at 215-574-0600 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.