Starbucks coffee shops across the country closed for three hours on Tuesday afternoon so that all workers could engage in “anti-bias training.”
The training was set up to educate employees about the subconscious racial bias they may have and to teach them how to identify when they act with prejudice because of this bias.
But while this training may be beneficial to workers, it’s also a business investment for the company. For one, the talk about Starbucks’ progressive stance has been all over the mainstream media, giving the company widespread national coverage.
Yet, a closer look at what promulgated Starbucks to initiate this training reveals that this is also a business investment against litigation.
In early April, a white Starbucks manager in Philadelphia called the police on two African-American men who entered the store for a business meeting. The two men ended up being handcuffed and charged with trespassing and disturbance before the charges were dropped. The whole high-profile incident was caught on video.
Following the incident, the two men filed a lawsuit against Starbucks. The case was settled for an undisclosed fee.
Starbucks does not want any more such lawsuits to take place. By issuing these trainings, they can minimize the number of occasions a lawsuit would need to be filed. But should one still be filed, the company can claim it has no liability because they care about bias training. They will be able to argue that only the particular employee should be held liable.
Despite the lost sales from closing down their shops on Tuesday afternoon — an estimated $16.7 million according to Bloomberg — the anti-bias training is a win-win for Starbucks: they get to better their public image and avoid future costs of litigation should a similar incident occur again.