Hot on the heels of coffee giant Starbucks raising its wages to avoid workplace shortages in the US, issues with its workplace are also in the headlines.
In addition to the possibility of swathes of Starbucks’ US employees becoming union members, a former barista who identifies as nonbinary, Brie Boyle, is suing the coffee chain. Boyle is seeking $100,000 in lost wages, emotional pain, and humiliation.
Boyle’s suit, which was filed in the US state of Illinois, alleges that they were “subjected to a continuing pattern of sexual harassment and gender discrimination”, including being misgendered, by two Starbucks supervisors.
According to Business Insider, the suit says: “From the moment information concerning Plaintiff’s gender and sexual orientation became known to their co-workers and management, Plaintiff was forced to deal with insults and mistreatment nearly every time Plaintiff worked a shift between November of 2019 and May of 2020.”
Business Insider further reported that Boyle was told to “man up” when they filed a complaint about this behavior. The suit also claims that Boyle was assaulted by the supervisor and Boyle was fired unlawfully by Starbucks.
Transphobia and gender discrimination at Starbucks
Unfortunately, it seems that Boyle’s experience of gender discrimination is not an isolated incident at Starbucks, even if the company claims to “take great pride in providing a warm and welcoming environment for everyone, and intentional misgendering is not acceptable conduct at Starbucks.”
Back in 2020, Buzzfeed (LINK) reported that Starbucks trans employees across the world had been outed or misgendered by other employees and had had trouble accessing gender-conforming medical treatment under Starbuck’s healthcare benefits insurance.
Starbucks has responded to reporting about Boyle’s suit by saying: “The claims made in this lawsuit lack merit and we intend to defend our case vigorously.
“We pride ourselves in creating a welcoming environment where everyone in our community, partners (employees) and customers can bring their whole selves to work and have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”
UNLEASH has reached out to Starbucks but is yet to receive a reply.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (D,E&I) are given a lot of lip service by many brands. But sometimes companies’ policies fail to be implemented on the ground, meaning their workplaces can become discriminatory.
LGBTQ+ individuals in particular face significant challenges in the world of work and successful inclusion workplace practices must involve making sure they feel safe to be their true selves at work.
Employers should look to the likes of Avanade, BP, Aviva, and JLL if they want to build workplaces that are inclusive of everyone no matter their gender identity.
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