(Reuters) — Starbucks Corp executives and directors have been sued by a conservative think tank that claims the coffee chain’s efforts to promote diversity amount to racial discrimination.
In a complaint filed Tuesday, the National Center for Public Policy Research protested that Starbucks set hiring goals for blacks and other people of color, awarded contracts to “diverse” suppliers and tied executive pay to diversity.
The plaintiff, a Starbucks shareholder, said those policies require the company to make racially based decisions that favor minorities and violate federal and state civil rights.
Thirty-five current and former Starbucks executives and directors, including interim CEO Howard Schultz, are among those charged.
The diversity press “personally benefits them by posing as virtuous advocates of ̵6;inclusion, diversity and fairness,’ even if it harms the company and its owners,” the complaint said.
Starbucks did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.
The Seattle-based company had 34,948 stores worldwide as of July 3, including 17,050 in North America.
Many companies have increased their focus on diversity and training, including following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
In October 2020, Starbucks said it would aim for blacks, indigenous peoples and other people of color to hold at least 30% of US corporate jobs and 40% of US retail and manufacturing jobs by 2025, tying executive pay to its diversity efforts.
Then in January, Starbucks said it planned to nearly double its annual spending with various vendors and suppliers to $1.5 billion by 2030 and committed to allocating 15% of this year’s ad budget to minority-owned and “targeted” media companies.
Tuesday’s lawsuit was filed in a Washington state court in Spokane.
It seeks to invalidate Starbucks’ diversity policy and make the defendants or their insurers pay damages to the company.