Starbucks’ €12k compo order over racist mark on coffee cup

by Gazette Reporter

A Starbucks outlet in Dublin has been ordered to pay €12,000 compensation to an Irish customer with Thai heritage after staff drew “slanty” eyes on her cup.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that Atercin Liffey Unlimited, trading as Starbucks Tallaght, racially harassed a customer under the Equal Status Act.

WRC adjudication officer Kevin Baneham ordered that they pay Suchavadee Foley €12,000 for the incident on January 12, 2020.

In his findings, Mr Baneham stated that a Starbucks employee drew an image of a smile and “slanty” eyes on the cup as a way of marking it as Ms Foley’s cup, in what was “clearly a reference to race”.

He said Ms Foley “has Thai-Irish heritage and it is clear that the visual depiction relates to her race. It is as offensive and as unimaginative as a 19th century Punch cartoon”.

He stated: “Instead of her name, a physical descriptor was used, in this case her eyes. This was not a drawing of the complainant, but a sketch of one part of her and one clearly associated with race.”

Ms Baneham stated that Ms Foley, while making her order, began to spell out her name and was interrupted by the employee, who instead drew a physical representation of Ms Foley.

The adjudicator found that the employee did not intend to harass Ms Foley but it is clear that the drawing “had a degrading and humiliating effect” on Ms Foley.

At the hearing the Starbucks outlet had denied that what occurred was a racist incident.

In her evidence, Ms Foley told the WRC hearing that she was “shocked and nervous” after the Starbucks employee showed her the latte cup with the slanty eyes as a way of identifying her for the collection of her latte.

Ms Foley told the hearing that she was too uncomfortable to collect the cup and her boyfriend returned to the counter to collect it for her. She said she felt demeaned.

The Brazilian Starbucks employee explained at hearing that she drew a smiley face as she thought Ms Foley was glamorous and did not intend to cause offence.

The employee stated that does not now draw on cups, unless it is for a child looking for ‘happy birthday’ or a birthday-related drawing on the cup.

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