- Starbucks Corp. closed 700 stores on the Southeastern U.S. coast and in Puerto Rico to prepare for Hurricane Irma and offered pay to employees unable to work due to store closings or unable to get to work, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports.
- Starbucks also released money from its Caring Unites Partners Fund grants, or CUP Fund grants, according to the Journal. Workers pay into the fund, which was set up in 1998 as financial assistance to help fellow employees during family crises or natural disasters.
- In a letter to all employees on the 2017 anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Journal noted, Starbucks' CEO Kevin Johnson wrote, "Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have inflicted violent and horrific destruction. I remain confident that just as the American people demonstrated on 9/11, we will rise to the challenge of recovering from these storms and emerge even stronger — as individuals, as teams and as a company."
Starbucks demonstrated good business practices before and during Hurricane Irma. The store was empathetic to workers' needs and concerns during a crisis — a necessary part of employee management. Empathy is a trait workers look for in their employers, yet, according to a Businessolver survey, only 49% of respondents rated their employers as empathetic.
Employers' legal obligations during catastrophic storms are the same as in standard operating times, and worker safety should always be considered a top priority. The Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) requires employers to keep workers safe, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees for the time worked, and the federal Family Medical Leave Act makes some workers eligible for leave under certain conditions.
By contrast, a Pizza Hut manager sent workers a message telling them to plan on coming to work under company policy, despite directives from state officials to vacate their homes before Irma hit. The corporate office later refuted the manager's account of its attendance policy after a public backlash.
It's unclear from the Journal report whether Starbucks executed a formal natural disaster plan during the storm, something all employers should have in place, but the company didn't hesitate to close stores and spare employees the added stress of leaving their families and homes to go to work during a life-threatening storm.