NLRB judge tells Starbucks to rescind ‘respectful communication’ policy

Dive Brief:

  • Starbucks violated federal labor law when it fired a worker after verbal disputes with management, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge concluded Tuesday. 
  • Starbucks said the worker, who led an organizing campaign at a Michigan store, violated the company handbook that required employees to communicate respectfully after she argued with a supervisor.
  • Administrative Law Judge Paul Bogas concluded the worker was targeted for her organizing activity and that the guidelines were “overly broad” and in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Bogas ordered Starbucks to rescind the rules, reinstate the worker and pay for lost wages.

Dive Insight:

Starbucks has been at the center of a number of disputes as its stores nationwide have led organizing campaigns. 

In February, 21 Starbucks locations announced plans to join Starbucks Workers United, the largest single-day total for new stores publicly declaring an intent to join the union. 

Earlier this month, administrative law judges ruled that Starbucks unlawfully fired a worker in Louisiana for protected activity and wrongfully disciplined workers in New York City for wearing union insignia. 

The company also violated the NLRA when local supervisors told workers Starbucks could not cover abortion-related travel expenses for organizing workers, an NLRB judge concluded last year.

Starbucks’ civility policy has drawn NLRB scrutiny before; a different agency judge also recommended its rescission last year following a Board ruling — Stericycle, Inc. and Teamsters Local 628 — that limited employers’ ability to maintain respectful workplace policies.