Starbucks outlet must pay €12k compensation after ‘slanty’ eyes drawn on customer’s cup

Starbucks spokeswoman says the group has "no tolerance for discrimination of any kind"

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19 January 2021 | 0

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The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ruled that a Dublin Starbucks outlet must pay  €12,000 compensation to an Irish customer with Thai heritage, following an in-store incident whereby an employee drew ‘slanty’ eyes on the customer’s cup.

WRC adjudication officer Kevin Baneham ordered that the sum be paid by Atercin Liffey Unlimited (trading as Starbucks Tallaght) to Suchavadee Foley after finding that she was racially harassed at the outlet on 12 January 2020.

An employee drew an image of a smile and “slanty” eyes on Ms Foley’s cup, which Baneham said were “clearly a reference to race”.

He said that Ms Foley, when making her order, began to spell out her name so that the staff member could write it on her cup, as is the usual practice in Starbucks outlets to identify each beverage. However, she was interrupted by the employee, who instead depicted a “visual representation” on the cup.

Baneham found it was not the employee’s intention to harass Ms Foley but that the drawing “had a degrading and humiliating effect”.

Ms Foley said she felt “shocked and nervous” in her evidence and that she felt too uncomfortable to collect her cup which her boyfriend subsequently collected for her.

The Starbucks employee, who is from Brazil, said she drew a smiley face as she thought Ms Foley was glamorous. She also said she was very sorry at the hearing.

Baneham said he accepted this evidence and “that it was not the employee’s intention to harass the complainant”.

A spokeswoman for Starbucks apologised for the incident. “We are deeply sorry that this incident took place and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind at Starbucks,” she said.

“We accept the adjudicator’s conclusion that our partner did not intend to harass this customer and we have retrained the team at this store to ensure this does not take place again.”

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