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Starbucks Case Study Labor Unions Response

Updated on February 25, 2017

After reviewing the Starbucks case I believe that the administrative law judge and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) did not go too far in overruling Starbucks. I believe the decision to have two of the three workers reinstated was fair because the administrative law judge and the NLRB only forced Starbucks to reinstate the two employees who behaved reasonably. The overruling would have gone too far if Iris Saenz was reinstated after she “pursued a Starbucks regional vice president for nearly two city blocks shouting threats, taunts, and profane comments at him”( NLRB Orders Starbucks to Reinstate Two Workers, But Not a Third, 2010).

An employer should have enough leeway in setting standards for conduct, customer interaction, and attire in the workplace to ensure that the work environment is kept the way the employer wishes it. For instance, if the employer wants a work environment where the primary focus is on job completion, then the employer should be allowed to require employees to keep social conversation to a minimum, set a uniform standard that is conducive to the environment, and have customer interaction occur only within job parameters. However, if the employer has a work environment where they want the customers to feel welcomed, then they should allow social conversation with customers, employee social interaction when no customers are present, and have a uniform that employees can customize within certain parameters. The employer should not be allowed to limit only certain types of social conversation if they allow social conversations.

The NLRB decision does limit Starbucks in the management of the stores; however it does not do so unfairly. Starbucks “interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the exercise of rights guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act” (Judge Says Starbucks Violated Workers' Rights at NYC Stores, 2009). The decision requires that Starbucks can no longer discriminate against certain types of conversations, behaviors, and actions. Starbucks can still choose to not allow employees to discuss unions, but the only way they can do so is if they change their rules to not allow social conversations while at work. I feel that this is a fair result to the court case as Starbucks can still manage their stores and create rules, however, they cannot make these rules the focus of only union activities.

I believe the court made the correct decision. The decision to force Starbucks to rehire the two employees that were fired because of their union beliefs and actions was correct because these two employees acted in a respectful manner. The decision not to force Starbucks to rehire the third employee who took her union beliefs to the next level by following the Starbucks regional vice president and shouting profane comments at him, was also correct as she was verbally abusive and out of line ( NLRB Orders Starbucks to Reinstate Two Workers, But Not a Third, 2010). The court’s took all factors into consideration and rendered a fair ruling.


Judge Says Starbucks Violated Workers' Rights at NYC Stores. (2009). Management Report for

Nonunion Organizations (Wiley), 32(3), 2-8.

NLRB Orders Starbucks to Reinstate Two Workers, But Not a Third. (2010). Management

Report for Nonunion Organizations (Wiley), 33(1), 4-5.


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