Why does Starbucks think it’s OK to give its well-compensated salaried employees far better paid leave benefits than hourly workers who are already barely scraping by? On Monday, some of the company’s shareholders filed a resolution demanding an explanation.
At issue is a new Starbucks maternity and paternity leave policy that went into effect over the weekend. The coffee giant now gives salaried workers ― some of whom make six-figure salaries ― 18 paid weeks off for maternity leave. Hourly workers, who earn around $10 an hour, get 6 weeks paid time off if they physically give birth to a baby.
Adoptive parents and men who work hourly get 12 weeks off without pay; men and adoptive parents who work in corporate get the same amount of time, but fully paid. The company has around 180,000 U.S. employees and the vast majority work in the stores, meaning the generous leave policy effectively goes to only a privileged minority.
“This is a discrimination claim just waiting to happen,” said Pat Miguel Tomaino, associate director of socially responsible investing at Zevin Asset Management in Boston, the lead filer on the shareholder resolution, with four other social impact investors including Reynders McVeigh Capital Management, Arjuna Capital, Pax World Management and Friends Fiduciary Corporation.
Not only is Starbucks’ reputation as a progressive company at risk, Tomaino said: “It’s a moral issue.”
In an email, Starbucks spokesperson Jaime Riley emphasized the company offers extremely generous benefits to hourly employees who work 20 hours or more a week including health care, a stock plan, free college tuition and 401(k) matching. The company’s parental leave benefits are “exceptional” in the retail industry, Riley said.
Indeed, only 14 percent of private sector employers have access to paid parental leave.
When HuffPost asked how Starbucks squared the inequality between hourly worker and corporate parental benefits, Riley said, “That’s an…