Published: Tue, May 29, 2018
Money | By Hannah Jacobs

Starbucks closes for bias training: "It won't be a rubber stamp"

Starbucks closes for bias training:

Not all stores will be closing, licensed stores that Starbucks does not own are not required to close.

The plan has brought attention to the little-known world of "unconscious bias training" used by corporations, police departments and other organizations.

The training, which will be provided to approximately 175,00 employees across the country, is in response to public outcry following a recent racial incident at a store in Philadelphia, Penn.

The Perception Institute, a consortium of researchers consulting with Starbucks, defines implicit bias as attitudes - positive or negative - or stereotypes someone has toward a person or group without being conscious of it. "Starbucks' employees will continue to operate in an environment that reinforces racial disparities", they wrote.

A video previewing the training says it will include recorded remarks from Starbucks executives.

Each store will receive a tool kit which will allow for partners to learn together in small self-guided groups. The men, who had previously asked for the code needed to use the store's bathroom, said they were waiting for a friend.

In settlements with the men and the city of Philadelphia, Starbucks pledged free education and a program for young entrepreneurs.

The retailer said earlier this month that all guests would be permitted to stay in its stores and use its restrooms regardless of whether they had purchased an item, later clarifying that it would not permit sleeping, disruptive behavior or substance use at its locations.

A customer at a San Marco Starbucks, Brandon Williams, said the Philadelphia incident was troubling. The program will also have employees reflect on their experiences in a workbook, and watch a video that features Common, an Academy Award-winning rapper and artist. "It doesn't really seem to do much good on average for companies to offer diversity training because they say you can't really change people's inherent biases with a training session", Harvard sociology professor Frank Dobbin told TIME. The guidelines encourage workers to ask if they would take the considered action with any customer, to verify the perceived situation with a co-worker and to dial 911 if the situation becomes unsafe. "We've made it clear that we won't be a rubber stamp to validate their programming", McGhee said.

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