Starbucks executives and directors sued over diversity policy

On the executives and directors of Starbucks Corp. sued by a conservative think tank that believes the coffee chain’s efforts to encourage diversity amount to racial discrimination.

In a complaint filed Tuesday, the National Center for Public Policy Research objected to Starbucks setting hiring targets for blacks and other people of color, contracting with “diverse” suppliers and advertisers, and tying executive pay to diversity.

The plaintiff, a shareholder of Starbucks, said the policy requires the company to make racial decisions that benefit minorities and violate federal and state civil rights laws.

The defendants include 35 current and former Starbucks executives and directors, including Acting CEO Howard Schultz.

The pursuit of diversity “benefits them personally as they portray themselves as virtuous advocates of ‘integration, diversity and fairness’, even if it harms the company and its owners,” the complaint says.

On Wednesday, Starbucks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As of July 3, the Seattle-based company had 34,948 stores worldwide, including 17,050 in North America.

Many companies are focusing more on diversity and learning, including following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

In October 2020 Starbucks said it will aim to have at least 30% of U.S. corporate and 40% U.S. retail and manufacturing jobs by 2025, and tie executive pay to its diversity efforts.

Then in January, Starbucks said it plans to nearly double its annual spending on various vendors and merchants to $1.5 billion by 2030 and committed to allocate 15% of its advertising budget this year to minority-owned and “targeted” media companies.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a Washington state court in Spokane.

It seeks to void Starbucks’ diversity policy and force defendants or their insurers to pay damages to the company.

Case—National Center for Public Policy Research v. Schultz et al., Spokane County Superior Court, No. 22-2-02945-32.

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