Judge dismisses investor’s lawsuit over Starbucks diversity policies

A federal court has dismissed a conservative investor’s lawsuit against Starbucks executives and directors over “frivolous” diversity, equity, and inclusion policies.

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) sued Starbucks’ board of directors in August 2022. The crux of the suit was that the woke company was setting hiring goals for blacks and other people of color. The investor alleged that Starbucks was awarding contracts to “diverse” suppliers and advertisers, and connecting executive pay to diversity goals.

“In 2020, Starbucks announced a policy that aimed to increase BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] representation at all corporate levels to at least 30% by 2025. At the time, BIPOC employees filled 18.5% of the positions at the senior vice president level and above. The company’s efforts included accelerator programs for BIPOC individuals and grants to nonprofits supporting BIPOC youth,” Quartz reported.

Starbucks retained Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm to assist with implementing DEI standards.

New policies included “tying executive pay to diversity targets, setting spending goals for ‘diverse suppliers,’ and launching a mentorship program for ‘BIPOC’ employees, which Holder pressed the company to expand. Each initiative, he wrote, demonstrated the coffee maker’s ‘commitment to civil rights and equal treatment,’” a report from the Washington Free Beacon noted.

The conservative nonprofit holds approximately $6,000 in Starbucks stock according to Newsmax. The group asserted that the DEI policies mandated that the company make decisions on race that violate federal and state civil rights laws.

Chief US District Judge Stanley Bastian in Spokane, Washington, made the ruling on Friday. He stated that the public policy questions involved in the suit were intended to be decided by lawmakers and corporations, not the courts.

“If the plaintiff doesn’t want to be invested in woke corporate America, perhaps it should seek other investment opportunities rather than wasting this court’s time,” he tersely told attorneys for the nonprofit, according to Newsmax.

Starbucks attorney Gregory Watts argued during the hearing that NCPPR has condemned the “evils” perpetrated by “woke” corporate America and that the group has made demands of many other corporations, including JPMorgan Chase and American Airlines Group Inc., according to Reuters.

“The use of such language shows what is motivating plaintiffs, and it is not the business interests of Starbucks,” he proclaimed.

Daniel Morenoff of The American Civil Rights Project countered that Starbucks’ policies seeking to increase racial diversity among its suppliers, vendors, and employees were discriminatory. He argued that NCPPR’s case was in the corporate interest, but the judge nominated by former President Obama made it abundantly clear he didn’t see it that way.

Bastian rejected the argument. He contended that the complaint did not represent the interests of Starbucks shareholders and failed to follow the required legal procedure.

The leftist judge also ruled that the National Center for Public Policy Research cannot refile its complaint and it has to foot the legal fees for Starbucks.

“We’re pleased with this decision given we very much disputed the plaintiff’s claims,” a Starbucks spokeswoman commented, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Scott Shepard, the executive director of the group’s Free Enterprise Project, stated that NCPPR would wait for the judge’s written order before deciding whether to appeal or abandon the case.

Shepard called the judge’s comments “surprising and disappointing.”

“We will continue to pursue relief from illegal discrimination on behalf of shareholders and employees,” he vowed, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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