Peeved customer Niquel Johnson told the Washington Post that he ordered his drink last week like he has always done using his Islamic name, Aziz, yet the anonymous employee reportedly served his latest set of drinks with the label “Isis” penned on the cup’s exterior. Johnson is now considering taking legal action against the coffee chain.
Johnson said that seeing “Isis” written on his drink made him “shocked and angry”. He added: “I felt it was discrimination.”
Despite this, Starbucks Spokesman Reggie Borges told the Washington Post in a statement: “After investigating, we don’t believe this was a case of discrimination or profiling. The customer approached and provided the name Aziz. The barista mistakenly spelled it incorrectly. We have connected with Mr Johnson and apologised for this regrettable mistake.”
Last week’s news comes despite the coffee chain closing 8,200 US stores last year for a company-wide racial bias training after black customers were reportedly mistreated by Starbucks employees.
To rectify the issue, HR Grapevine reported that employees received training encompassing initiatives to address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion and prevent discrimination, a statement on the firm’s website explained.
At the time, Starbucks’ CEO, Kevin Johnson issued both a written and video apology, where he held himself accountable for the incident. “This is a management issue, and I am accountable to ensure we address the policy and the practice and the training that led to this outcome.”
Additionally, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ Executive Chairman and former CEO, was bought in to help deal with the crisis, and told CBS This Morning that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” about the incident, but is hopeful that the new approach will prevent similar occurrences.
Racial bias in the workplace
While Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a hot topic for employers and those in HR, a report from Business in the Community (BITC) found that less than half of UK employees conduct equality, or D&I training.
Sandra Kerr OBE, Race Equality Director at BITC, explained that employers should be taking inclusion training more seriously.
“We know that less than half of UK employees are comfortable talking about race at work, and unconscious bias training can be a great opportunity for employers and employees to challenge and discuss policy, actions and processes in a constructive way,” Kerr said.
“All employers should build this necessary training into their existing mandatory training programmes for all employees and ensure that they receive ‘refresher’ training at regular intervals. Training for managers should also cover how to sensitively address complaints of racial bullying and harassment at work from employees, including from customers and contractors, and communicate a zero-tolerance policy of such behaviour throughout the organisation,” she concluded.
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