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Florida AG goes after Starbucks over diversity hiring efforts

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

Most employers throughout the country don’t find themselves under investigation for trying to bring diversity to their company. In Florida, however, those in charge seem to have other goals.

This month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced on a conservative radio show that they’re calling on the Florida Commission on Human Relations to investigate Starbucks for its stated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). 

The complaint is over the commitment to hire more BIPOC employees

The complaint filed by the AG against Starbucks claims that the company’s goal of hiring more employees who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) violates state and federal law. The company has set a goal of having BIPOC employees in 30% of corporate jobs and 40% of retail and manufacturing jobs by next year. A small portion of Starbucks executives’ bonuses are reportedly tied to diversity efforts.

Currently, nearly half of Starbucks employees are white, with less than a third Hispanic and just over 8% Black. Under 6% are Asian.

In a rather confusing statement, the AG said, “We’re going to make sure that in Florida this quota for hiring and programs that cause every employee to determine whether they are the problem based on the color of their skin, whether that violates Florida’s anti-discrimination laws, and so the matter will be investigated.”

The DeSantis administration has had mixed success in its attempts to stop DEI programs and other efforts to bring more diversity to the state’s workforce. A federal appeals court ruled that parts of the controversial “Stop WOKE Act” were unconstitutional – for example, for prohibiting employers from requiring employees to participate in DEI programs.

What does the Starbucks complaint mean for Florida employers?

Of course, Starbucks has locations across the country and internationally. Therefore, this investigation raises the question of whether those managing stores in a particular state must adhere to that state’s laws if they contradict corporate policies largely accepted everywhere else. 

Certainly, this can put all Florida employers in a difficult position of not violating laws that prohibit discriminating against people based on protected characteristics while still adhering to the goals being enforced by the majority of state leaders. Having experienced legal guidance can help walk this tightrope.