VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

Is a family leave controversy brewing at Starbucks?

Countless movies and television shows have depicted a lone underling facing off against a group of corporate bigwigs, pleading their case for change. Recently, the classic “David vs. Goliath” dynamic played out in real life at an annual meeting of Starbuck’s shareholders.

A company barista who recently had a child confronted executives at Starbucks’ yearly gathering. Speaking for what has become a vocal group of peers and store managers who ply their trade in individual locations, she demanded more paid leave for her and other new parents.

Her plea got the attention of an investor group led by Zevin Asset Management. They are now questioning whether the family leave policy equates employment discrimination. Starbuck currently has a two-tiered system where retail workers – including LGBTQ parents – receive less time than their corporate counterparts.

In spite of the current policy’s pushback, Starbuck’s continues to tout their policy as one of the premier plans in retail. Currently, they offer corporate office staff 16 weeks for mothers who give birth and 12 weeks for new fathers or adoptive parents. Conversely, retail workers are lumped in with adoptive parents and given six weeks of leave. Fathers receive no such benefits.

What could be the first shareholder-driven request for a company to potentially change its family leave policy is not stopping at Starbucks. Other companies are in Zevin’s sites. The investor group has also sent letters to other companies, warning them that their leave policies would be scrutinized as well. Those include Costco, Target, UPS, Amazon, AT&T, Apple, CVS, and Marriott.

For help with the complexities that come with employment-related disputes, contact VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP, at 606-618-0698.

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