Get the Facts: Partner and Customer Experience Expectations, Correcting the Misinformation about Unlawful Activities

We are committed to transparency, being a source of support, and to fairly applying standards to all Starbucks partners. For these reasons, we want to set the record straight regarding false claims that partners have been fired for organizing or union activity.

No Starbucks partner has been or will be disciplined or separated for supporting, organizing or otherwise engaging in lawful union activity. All partners have the right to make their voice heard when it comes to union issues. Recently, a number of separated partners claim they were fired because they were in favor of the union or had engaged in organizing activities. In every case, those mischaracterizations and claims are false. And Starbucks continues to dispute these claims in legal proceedings.

A partner’s involvement in union activity does not exempt them from adhering to the policies and procedures that apply to all partners. Regardless of what partners think about unions, all partners and customers can and should expect to be treated with dignity and respect.  Our policies exist so that we can maintain a safe and welcoming environment for our partners and customers.

Starbucks supports and will enforce all of these rights to the full extent of our ability.  We will live up to our legal responsibilities and obligations related to union issues.  And we cannot “look the other way” when important business standards and policies are violated. We owe our partners and customers a safe and decent environment at all times.

Our partners deserve consistency and accurate information which led us to the information below –  an overview of protected and unprotected union or concerted activity, and some illustrative examples.

Unprotected Activities:
While the list below may seem obvious based on our Partner Handbook policies and Starbucks Mission and Values, the following activities are not protected behavior and are actual examples of partner behaviors and actions in stores with union organizing that have occurred and led to partner separations.

  • Threats or actual violence toward customers or partners
  • Failing to follow cash handling procedures
  • Profanity directed toward partners and/or customers
  • Deliberate destruction of store equipment and property
  • Blocking customers and partners from entering or exiting
  • Making recordings in circumstances that are unlawful
  • Failing to work or call in for scheduled shifts not related to union or concerted activity
  • Violating the sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policy, examples include
    • Intentionally misgendering a partner
    • Sexually harassing fellow hourly partners
    • Describing a customer or partner in a racially insensitive and derogatory manner
  • Not following health and safety protocols including
    • unauthorized, after-hours entry to a store (safety violation)
    • mishandling food and drink meant for customers (health violation)
    • leaving store entrances and drive through windows unsecured at closing (safety violation)

What Happens When a Partner Engages in Unprotected Activity?

When a partner is alleged to have engaged in unprotected activity and broken policies clearly stated in the Partner Guide, which is signed by all Starbucks partners, we follow a clear, un-biased protocol to determine next steps.

If a partner engages in activity that is against Starbucks policy, we address the behavior in accordance with the “Corrective Action” policy as found in the Partner Guide, which may result in one or more of the following actions, which depend on the circumstances:

  • Documented verbal coaching
  • First written warning
  • Final written warning
  • Separation from employment

Egregious Behavior

Egregious behavior or activity, such as theft, threats of violence, or flagrant violations of safety or security policies, may also result in immediate separation.

Protected Activities:

Starbucks respects the right of all partners to engage in activities that may support or oppose unions and union organizing. Following are some examples of protected activities:

  • Making your own decision about union issues, which can include either supporting or opposing union representation
  • Signing or refusing to sign a union authorization card
  • Expressing union support or opposition in discussions with other partners
  • Voting in a union election
  • Wearing a button or pin expressing support for a union or fellow partners

Appendix

The following examples illustrate the types of events that have prompted Starbucks to take action based on standards applied in a consistent manner contrary to claims of retaliation or discrimination. 

These examples should not be interpreted as describing or relating to any particular person or persons. Questions regarding particular events that are the subject of pending charges or complaints will be addressed when those issues are resolved by the National Labor Relations Board, which has not decided any unfair labor practice case involving Starbucks union organizing since at least 2021. 

VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE

Partner action: Partner sent a message “I want to punch her in the throat” about another partner, which led to concerns about safety in the workplace by those who had received the message.  

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: Threats of violence or actual violence toward customers or partners are not tolerated.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under federal labor law.

Partner Action: Following a warning about dress code the partner made a threat toward the store manager.

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: The partner’s actions violated Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: It was brought to the store manager’s attention that a partner made a threat of violence by posting intent to ‘beat the hell out of that ****’ on social media in reference to another partner.

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: The partner had other documented warnings for failing to properly handle expired food items and failing to follow process multiple times that led to product loss. The social media post was in violation of Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS

Partner action: Partner refused to prepare beverage to recipe and proper handling standards.

What happened next: The partner quit prior to delivery of the documented warning.

Why: Not following health and safety protocols is a violation of policy. This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner Action: The partner left the drive thru window and the safe unsecured at closing.

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: The partner had prior documented warnings for leaving the door unlocked and had time and attendance occurrences not related to union or concerted activity. The partner’s actions violated Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: Partner admitted to being behind the bar area, making their own beverage, collecting tips from the tip jar, wearing glasses made from cups while socializing with other partners, all while off duty and off the clock, as well as staying at the store until after closing  

What happened next: The partner was separated

Why: All partners are responsible for helping ensure the safety and security of partners, customers and store property. These actions violated Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: Partner entered the store when it was closed to customers and worked despite not being scheduled and without the store manager’s authorization.

What happened next:  Partner was separated.

Why: Not following safety protocols is a violation of Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION

Partner action: Allegations from several peers alleged that a partner repeatedly made inappropriate and offensive comments regarding incest and ‘sexual kinks’ even after being asked to stop, which contributed to an uncomfortable work environment. In addition, the partner used their role as a supervisor to interject into conversations and ridicule subordinate partners, as well as retaliate against partners by assigning objectively unnecessary tasks or altogether ignore them.

What happened next: The partner was separated

Why: The partner’s actions violated Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner Action: The partner, while recording video of peer partners, began yelling and demanding that the hourly partners being recorded give their full names while calling them ‘b******’ and using other profanity including ‘f*** you*.’ When leaving the store, the partner vandalized company property when they graffitied the light post in front of the store.

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: The partner had previous documented warnings for verbal aggression and profanity. The partner’s actions were in violation of Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: The partner admitted to intentionally misgendering a fellow partner, name-calling and ridiculing subordinate partners and making false allegations that a partner was involved with a minor. 

What happened next: The partner was separated.

Why: The partner’s actions violated Starbucks’ policies.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.

TIME AND ATTENDANCE

Partner action: Partner missed four shifts and failed to notify a supervisor they were unable to work their scheduled shift.  The store manager attempted to contact the partner to ensure they were safe, the partner hung up on the store manager.

What happened next:  Partner was separated.

Why: The attendance and leave guidelines were not followed.  This type of misconduct also is not related to protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: Partner called out just before the start of their shift and did not find coverage, the following two shifts the partner failed to show up for their scheduled shifts and did not notify the Supervisor.  The store manager attempted to contact the partner; the partner did not call back. This partner had other documented warnings for not following attendance processes.

What happened next:  Partner was separated.

Why: The attendance and leave guidelines were not followed.  This type of misconduct also is not related to protected activity under the NLRA.

Partner action: Partner requested a Leave of Absence and failed to provide the required documentation to support their request, the Partner was notified their leave was not approved.  The store manager attempted several times to contact the Partner about their return to work, the partner did not call back.

What happened next:  Partner was separated.

Why: The attendance and leave guidelines were not followed.  This type of misconduct also is not protected activity under the NLRA.