In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Philly and Starbucks Settle With Wrongfully Arrested Men

Recent news of two men arrested at a Starbucks made national headlines due to the racial implications of the incident.

The men were waiting for another person whom they were supposed to meet there, when the Starbucks manager told them to buy something or leave. When the men didn't leave, police were called, and the men were arrested for trespassing. Video of that arrest went viral.

In an interesting turn of events, the two men have settled their lawsuit against the city and coffee giant for a mere $1 each from the city. However, the city also agreed to fund a $200,000 program for public school kids to promote entrepreneurship. Curiously though, the financial details of the men's settlement with Starbucks are confidential.

A Grande Mistake

In the wake of the controversy spawned by the wrongful arrests, Starbucks has also stepped up to the public relations challenge. Rather than fighting a battle the titan had no control over, which included a vocal, social media-fueled boycott, the company's CEO came to Philadelphia and apologized to the men.

In addition to offering the men the chance to participate in the same online college program as employees, Starbucks announced that it will be closing its stores for one afternoon in May so that employees can participate in an implicit bias training.

Train Employees Now, Not Latte

The incident in the Philadelphia Starbucks is indicative of a failure to train both Starbucks employees and police officers. And while the company is taking action after the fact to ensure employees are better trained, other companies may want to do the same as a precautionary measure. Though implicit bias is nothing new, it has only been in recent years that it has made it into the mainstream discussion of race and bias in America.

Sure, training may not be 100 percent effective, and annual training reviews are pure torture or a complete joke for many employees. But, the fact remains that all an employer can do is create policy, train, monitor, and retrain or discipline. When a company fails to do any one of these, it can expect that policy violations or other problems will eventually occur.

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