Last weekend, a female customer says she witnessed a “brazen and unapologetic display of homophobia” by employees of a Long Island Starbucks.
The woman recounted her experience—which involved a female employee ripping a gay employee (named Jeffrey) in front of customers—in a letter
she sent to the company. According to the letter, the female employee lashed out at Jeffrey. When he excused himself to go to the bathroom, she continued talking poorly of him.
Jeffrey ultimately handed over his keys and left.
The customer’s wife posted the letter to the Internet, where bloggers and news outlets picked up the story.
By Tuesday, Starbucks had responded to the incident on multiple platforms:
• On its website. The company posted a letter on its website, titled “Our Dedication to Embrace Diversity,” which said in part: “We are disheartened by the allegations reported in an East Coast Starbucks store and are taking immediate measures to investigate and take any steps necessary to make this right. The actions reported do not correspond with our values, who we are as a company, or the beliefs we try to instill in our partners.”
• On Twitter. The coffee purveyor’s official Twitter feed has responded directly to people asking about the incident. Among its tweets: “We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. Pls see this post regarding a report of a recent incident: http://sbux.co/lI3POS” and, “We are investigating and will be as transparent as we legally can be.”
• In the media. A spokesperson for the company told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that what the woman who wrote the letter “saw and what she heard wasn’t exactly what was going on.” The meeting was a performance review, the spokesperson explained. “He voluntarily resigned his position without coercion.”
Though the statement to the Post-Intelligencer
seems a tad cold, the company has confronted the issue, potentially staving off a full-blown PR firestorm.
Starbucks has taken its knocks for alleged gay discrimination—two former employees sued the company
in 2008 claiming they were fired for being gay—but has won high marks from the Human Rights Campaign. The organization cited Starbucks as one of the best places to work in 2011
, due its support of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees.