Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in Starbucks


Managers in organizations are charged with the responsibilities of leading and managing people. Each manager in an organization has functions that relate to the employees in the organization. Managing human resource refers to all the functions of the managers such as recruitment, training, employee motivation, observing personal and senior management policies, amongst others. The behavior of managers and other employees in an organization determines the success the organization. All employees in an organization should act ethically so as to create an environment that will encourage all employees to maximize their potential. All employees should also be given equal opportunities and treated equally regardless of their backgrounds. It is the responsibility of the human resource management to ensure that proper training is given to the employees especially regarding their conduct and policies so that their behaviors are always ethical. The human resource management should ensure that there are no cases of discrimination such as racial discrimination against the minority groups, sexual harassment, and discrimination against the disabled, gender discrimination, and all other forms of discrimination. Starbucks Coffee Company is a well known company that retails, retails, and brands coffee. The company has had many cases of discrimination especially against the minor groups. This paper will seek to analyze discrimination issues relating to human resource management within Starbucks and propose solutions to the issue.

Human Resource Issues in Starbucks

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a common issue at Starbucks. An example is the case of the sixteen years old barista who was sexually harassed by her twenty four year old supervisor (ABC News n.d, para.1). The barista confessed how the supervisor made sexual demands daily including using text messages (Wright 2010, para.2). There are claims that the management was privy to all these happenings but nothing was done regarding the issue. The sex history of an individual does not matter. As long as an individual is against any form of sexual advance, further demands can be seen as a form of harassment to the individual. Supervisors in the company are accused of sexually harassing ladies physically. Placing hands around a lady in the workplace is unethical and should be discouraged. A manager in a branch was found guilty of having raped two sixteen year old ladies. One of the ladies was raped the very day she joined the workplace. The bad behaviors by managers and supervisors in the organization have led to loss of many important employees. Some ladies confess that they left the company because they were being harassed sexually by their supervisors. When some of these ladies report cases of sexual discrimination to the top management, nothing appears to be done about such allegations.

Discrimination against Disabled Women

Christine Drake once worked as a Starbucks barista at a store on 425 Queen Anne Ave. N. in Seattle, Washington, but was later fired. She had psychiatric disabilities and when she joined the company, she had confessed that she felt that she had accomplished something in her life. She did not know that her stay at the organization was limited. A new manager came to the branch after two years and her life in the company started being horrible. The manager discriminated against her and decreased her number of hours. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report showing that the manager belated Drake even in the presence of customers (Harris 2006, para.2). She was later fired. The company ignored her request for help and violated the American laws regarding individuals with disability. The manager who fired her had previously told her that she was not Starbucks material. This is a violation of her rights as a human being.

Age Discrimination

Banny is another lady who experienced discrimination Starbucks. She worked with the company only for one year, at fifty three years of age. Her supervisor on the other hand was twenty six. The manager could openly make comments about her age even in her presence. The manager once told her that he was intimidated by her because of her age. The manager also claimed that he had not gone through what she had gone through and questioned his decision after talking to her. Instead of taking it as a challenge, the manager took it as a weapon to fight the lady. He was not comfortable working with the lady. She once filed to show up for work for two days and the manager sent her home to go for a doctors note saying that she could not return to work without the note (Intextile 2007, para.4). This is contrary to the judgment handed down to her fellow employees who were younger than her. These young employees could even miss for four days and the manager could ask for a doctor’s note from them. At the end of all these discriminations, the lady was sacked simply because she was much older than the manager. After sacking, she did not receive any benefits or paychecks. This is very inhuman and unethical for such a company.

Racial Discrimination

Starbuck has also been previously accused of having discriminated against the minor races. An African American by the name Victor Washington had worked with Starbucks for two years and during this period of time; he had experienced all forms of discrimination both from fellow employees and from the management. White coworkers could make racist comments to him such as telling him to tie the shoes for the whites. When he complained to the human resource department, no action was taken. Instead, the supervisor increased his work and gave some undesirable assignments to him. When Washington later sued the company, the company wrote him a check worth one hundred and twenty thousand dollars arguing that it was for the emotional distress that he went through (Allison 2009, para.2).

Other Forms of Discrimination

In addition to the above forms of discrimination, there are other forms of discrimination in Starbucks. A woman sued the company because she was sent out of the company’s shops for trying to breastfeed her child. There are claims that mothers are asked to leave, cover, move, or hide when breastfeeding their children (Organize 2005, para.2). Another employee who had worked with company for seven years was sacked because of tattoos in his body (Gilbert 2010, para.1). The tattoos were still in his body even before he joined the company and the management knew of them.

Solution to the Human Resource Issues in Starbucks

All the above named forms of discrimination occur because of lack of equal employment opportunities. Most of the sexual harassment claims at Starbucks were filed by women. These are women who had been sexually harassed by supervisors and managers. To avoid incidents of sexual harassment, managers have the leadership role in recognizing that it does exist in the organization (Berkeley University of California 2008, para.5). Accepting that this form of discrimination is present will help the human resource managers to work towards its eradication. Knowing that discrimination is harmful to an organization will help the management to make conscious decisions on how to deals with individuals found guilty of any forms of discrimination (Armstrong 2006, p.46). The managers should seriously deal with all cases of discrimination and resolve all complains. This will help create a company environment that is free from all forms of discrimination. Managers in the organization should monitor the working environment to ensure that there are no behaviors that can be referred to as discrimination of any forms (Bohlander and Snell 2009, p.116). Those who have plans to discriminate other employees will be worried of doing it when they see the seriousness that the management has over the issue of discrimination. When the organization holds staff meetings, the issue of discrimination should a subject matter and individuals from the human resource department should strongly disprove it (Mathis and Jackson 2004, p.219). The discrimination policy in the organization should be revised and distributed to all employees in the organization so that they are aware of the policy. It should contain all types of behavior in the organization that may be referred to as discrimination. Employees should also be provided with the procedures to use when complaining about discrimination.

Handling Future Human Resource Issues

Supervisors and managers in the organization should be in the front line in ensuring that employees are provided with a fair environment to do their work effectively (Bratton and Gold 2001, p.191). This environment will help prevent discrimination in the organization (Ulrich 2000, p.128). Unfortunately, some of the managers and supervisors have also been accused of having discriminated the minors in the organization. If such an incident is encountered in the future, appropriate steps should be taken upon such managers and supervisors and all other employees found guilty of discriminating against some employees in the organization. The human resources department which is the employer must show responsibility in taking care of the employees hired (Bush & Middlewood, 2005, par. 4). The necessary steps should be taken immediately and guilty employees should be punished severely including sending some of them home (Heathfield 2010, para.4). This is a critical step because it will warn other employees who could have plans to discriminate in the future.

Any complaints raised in the future should be taken seriously regardless of how frivolous it may appear (Legge 2004, p.123). All complains should also be given a professional approach. The management should collect all facts regarding an issue and there should be no biases. The process of investigation should be kept confidential and facts should be collected from as many sources as possible. As investigation continues, the complaining employee should be advised that the necessary steps have been taken and the management will do its best to avoid such incidents in the future.


Starbucks has been faced with many forms of discrimination. Sexual harassment is one of these unethical issues in the organization. Other human resource issues in the organization include racial discrimination, age discrimination, discrimination against disabled women, and many others. The human resource managers in the organization should take the necessary steps to ensure that these cases are solved and steps taken upon those who discriminate against other employees. Future cases of discrimination should be handled with a lot of seriousness so that the occurrence of such incidents is avoided.


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Wright, C 2010, “Starbucks in Hot Water, in Middle of Sexual Harassment Lawsuit”. (Online). Web.

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