A Starbucks branch in Dublin, Ireland compensated a female customer of Thai descent €12,000 ($14,600) after one of its employees drew a smiley face with “slanty” eyes on her cup.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer Kevin Baneham forced Atercin Liffey Unlimited trading as Starbucks Tallaght to pay Suchavadee Foley for the Jan. 12 incident, according to The Irish Times
Baneham, while recounting Foley’s story, said the woman was interrupted by a female employee from Brazil while trying to spell out her name in her order.
The employee, who had only been working with the branch for a month, then drew Foley’s physical representation, BBC
Baneham noted 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.”
Foley said she and her family moved to Ireland when she was five or six.
The woman was reportedly “shocked and nervous” after the employee showed her the drawing on her matcha latte drink. During the hearing, Foley said she made her boyfriend collect the order because she was uncomfortable.
Foley’s boyfriend approached the counter and later spoke to a Starbucks supervisor, who apologized for what happened.
Baneham found that although the employee did not have any intention to harass the customer, the drawing still “had a degrading and humiliating effect.”
In the employee’s explanation during the hearing, she said she drew the smiley face on Foley’s cup because she thought the customer looked glamorous. She also said she does not draw on cups unless it is for a child and later apologized to Foley.
“She apologized to the complainant and did not intend to humiliate her or make her feel uncomfortable… I fully accept that this was a mistake on her part and one that she regrets,” Baneham said. “I accept, therefore, that it was not the employee’s intention to harass the complainant.”
Although the Starbucks firm initially denied a racist incident occurred, the company did offer an apology in a statement to Foley and Baneham.
“We are deeply sorry that this incident took place and we have no tolerance for discrimination of any kind at Starbucks,” a spokeswoman for Starbucks said. “We accept the adjudicator’s conclusion that our partner did not intend to harass this customer and we have retrained the team at this store to ensure this does not take place again.”