'Stop WOKE' | Starbucks will be investigated for DEI practices, Florida Attorney General declares

Starbucks will be investigated for DEI practices, Florida Attorney General declares

Starbucks will face an investigation from the state of Florida for its diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, state Attorney General Ashley Moody has declared.

Moody broke the news on May 22 while appearing as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show, a popular conservative radio broadcast.

On the broadcast, which was guest hosted by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, Moody confirmed the state of Florida has filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

"So many of these DEI policies that have been pushed in corporate America that were meant to address and prevent discrimination are now pushing policies and programs and initiatives that may in fact be unlawful employment practices, in fact becoming discriminatory themselves," Moody said.

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She asserted her expectations for a “full investigation” from the commission, which was set up in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination issues in the state.

Moody alleged the coffee chain has implemented policies that “appear on their face to discriminate on the basis of race.”

Starbucks’ BIPOC representation goals under scrutiny

Namely, she criticized Starbucks’ ‘Equity and Inclusion’ timeline on its website. The page details the company’s annual DEI goals to achieve "BIPOC representation of at least 30 percent at all corporate levels and at least 40 percent of all retail and manufacturing roles by 2025.”

Moody also slammed Starbucks’ policy, announced in October 2020, to tie progress against DEI goals to executive compensation.

The policy was scrapped by Starbucks’ shareholders in March this year in favor of pay packages tied to general workforces and the company’s financial performance.

Starbucks, according to another page on its website, says it is still firmly committed to DEI, including details of an anti-bias curriculum. However, the pledges are carefully phrased, stating hopes to increase its efforts to reach a “broader pool of candidates” with “new perspectives and experiences.”

Moody hopes that the investigation will reveal whether Starbucks’ "quota for hiring and programs that cause every employee to determine whether they are the problem based on the color of their skin… violates Florida's anti-discrimination laws.”

DEI proponents face tough opposition in Florida & beyond

DeSantis has been vocal in his criticism of DEI policies, launching a “Stop WOKE Act” with provisions including the restriction of diversity practices and training in corporate environments. A federal appeals court approved a block on this provision, in a setback to the governor’s “war on corporate wokeness.”

However, other attempts to eliminate DEI initiatives in Florida have been successful. After DeSantis signed a bill into law that prohibited the use of state funds for DEI programs, The University of Florida (UF) was forced to eliminate all DEI positions and initiatives.

On the broadcast, he thanked Moody for launching the investigation. “You should treat people as individuals, judge them based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin or their ethnicity or anything like that,” he stated.

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Across the US, DEI and HR professionals across the US have struggled in the past twelve months against an increasing tide of criticism, including accusations of "reverse discrimination."

But many leaders argue the answer is to proactively reimagine and restrategize DEI policies and programs, rather than scrap or ban them altogether.

“As HR leaders and practitioners, we always have to be aware of those sound bites that come out of the media,” Lisa Sanchez, Vice President of Employee Engagement (HR) at ArtCenter College of Design, told HR Grapevine in February 2024. “But if you're only listening to those and being reactionary, then it means that you're not being proactive to get ahead of those headlines.”

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