Starbucks Faces Discrimination Lawsuit Based on Diversity Policies

Discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were designed to put members of minority populations on an equal footing in the workplace and other areas. Taken literally, though, these laws prohibit discrimination based on specified traits, rather than discrimination against certain groups. This can lead to lawsuits such as a case recently filed against Starbucks.

In the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, Starbucks decided to set certain goals for the composition of its workforce. For example, it projected that 30 percent of U.S. corporate jobs and 40 percent of U.S. retail and manufacturing jobs would be held by people of color by 2025. Starbucks followed this initiative by announcing that it would increase its annual spending with diverse suppliers and vendors to $1.5 billion by 2030. It also set aside part of its advertising budget for certain types of media companies, such as some owned by minorities.

Suing the restaurant chain in a Washington state court, the National Center for Public Policy Research claims that Starbucks has gone too far in boosting diversity. (The organization is a Starbucks shareholder.) The complaint argues that these policies violate federal and state discrimination laws because they make race a factor in Starbucks decisions. According to the National Center for Public Policy Research, high-level executives at the company enacted these policies to receive praise from the public for their progressive attitudes. Meanwhile, the policies allegedly undermine the company and thus cause financial harm to its shareholders. The lawsuit urges the court to wipe out the diversity policies and order the individuals who crafted the policies to pay damages to the company.

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