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Starbucks Changes Company Policy on Restroom Use after Media Firestorm

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 14, 2018 | 0 Comments

Starbucks, one of America's best-known coffee giants, has changed their company policy regarding the use of their restrooms after being at the center of a racially-charged media firestorm last month. The change is designed to open up the use of the company restrooms to the public and avoid confrontations like the one that started the controversy.

Under the new company policy, restrooms inside Starbucks are now open to the public. Whether you're spending money inside the store or not, you are now officially welcome to use the facilities.

According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the company isn't keen on their stores becoming public restrooms. However, it is Schultz' belief that employees can make the “right decision a hundred percent of the time,” if access to the restroom is opened up by company policy as opposed to being left as a store-level decision.

Starbucks' previous bathroom policy required you to make a purchase before using their restroom. However, Schultz admitted that it was a “loose policy” that was enforced differently at separate locations. Often, these decisions would come down to managers and employees. In addition to the policy changes, the controversy moved Starbucks to shut down more than 8,000 locations on May 29 in order to provide instruction to 175,000 employees on spotting racial bias.

The controversy began in a Philadelphia Starbucks on April 12, 2018, when two African-American men were arrested inside a Starbucks while they were waiting to meet a business partner. One of the men was denied use of the restroom since he had not made a purchase, and both men were arrested only minutes later. The incident was captured on video by other patrons using their cellphones, and the video quickly went viral. The backlash against Starbucks and the City of Philadelphia was swift. Starbucks quickly came to a settlement for an undisclosed amount of money, and they have also offered the men college scholarships. Both men also settled with the City of Philadelphia for a symbolic $1 as well as the creation of a $200,000 program designed to foster young entrepreneurs in the city.

The Grounds for a Warrantless Arrest in Washington State

Under Washington State law, an officer would have to meet the requirements of RCW 10.31.100 to make an arrest similar to the once in the Starbucks case. According to the statute:

A police officer having probable cause to believe that a person has committed or is committing a felony shall have the authority to arrest the person without a warrant. A police officer may arrest a person without a warrant for committing a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor only when the offense is committed in the presence of an officer.

If you feel you were wrongly arrested for loitering or trespassing in a public place, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss your options. The Starbucks controversy shows that employees of a company can call the police when it isn't warranted. This circumstance is only made worse if the police arrest you when you haven't committed a crime. Contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi to set up your free consultation today. Our experienced staff can provide you the legal defense you deserve.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.