« Update: Homeless man pleads guilty to throwing hot coffee in Starbucks barista's face | Main | "This is such great news that the pour-over is coming to Starbucks" »

February 04, 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Ummm, wouldn't 43% of their workforce need to be fired if tattoos mattered?

b. murphy

I don't say it much but "this thread sucks without pics."

Barista Ben

I have a few co-workers who feel they are probably always covering up their tattoo's. They aren't, and I constantly have to remind them to roll down their sleeves.

My last manager was less forgiving. He had full sleeves all the way up his neck and down to his wrists. He woke up an hour early every day and put on play make up to hide them, because our job says no visible tattoo's.

if this person was really following the rules and was also not a pain, then I feel sorry for them. Odds are they were either not really following the rules or they were a pain and this was a good excuse.

Enlightened Coffee Sage

While it sucks for that barista, I don't think he has a case. Almost all places in America - Starbucks included - have "At Will" employment, which means that they're legally allowed to fire you for any reason or no reason at all. So yes, they can fire him for having gotten tattoos 7 years ago that no one sees.

Is it fair? No. It it just? No. But it's legal.

tattoo'd barista

It really sucks. Starbucks pretends to be so liberal and progressive, but they are still in the dark ages when it comes to tattoos and acryllic nails on women.

There are several restaurants, with well known names, where employees have tattoos that show. Starbucks needs to get with it.


I bet it had more to do with his tenure (seven years) than his actual tattoos.

I once worked with a supervisor who would cover a tattoo on her forearm with the small Siren Logo stickers. Ironically, it looked like she had the Starbucks logo tattooed on her arm instead...

Mrs. Tillinghamshackles

I don't quite find it fair to lump in tattoos with acrylic nails... After all, a tattoo can't pop off and end up in a latte.

me myself and I

I'm with Mrs. Tillinghamshackles, nail polish or acrylic nails are a safety issue, tattoos are just a matter of personal taste and should be tolerated in a modern society.


43% is actually a very accurate number for my store, too. We all cover our tatts and go on with ours days. While it's not the end of the world, we all wish we could just show our true selves and not have to worry about wearing long sleeves in the middle of August. Yes, we knew what we were getting into when we got hired/inked, but I still think Starbucks needs to update this policy.

dirty chai

Further, at least in Ohio, wearing nail polish or artificial nails while working with food is a health code violation.

sarah gilbert

if you'll read through the case, it's not his right to work with tattoos he's suing over; but the fact that female employees of the same store weren't fired or asked to resign, despite their own tattoos. when you have nothing else to go on, gender discrimination is always a safe bet.

he may have a case, too; why are male tattoos not ok but female ones are? just b/c they're not so cute?

SBUX Alum Bill

@ sarah gilbert:

You're right - even in the majority of states where "at will" contracts protect employers who fire employees for "the right reason, the wrong reason, or no reason at all," firings in violation of the Civil Rights Act (or various other laws that protect whistleblowers, etc.) are not protected. Starbucks does have some legal exposure on this one.


@Sbux Alum Bill:

They would have some trouble if he could prove any of his civil rights were violated, true, but it really depends on what was officially listed as reason for termination. I'm guessing "tattoos" is not on there, probably something else vague enough to leave them off the hook.


It does not really matter what was on the final corrective action. Any investigator or jury knows that when most people are going to violate a person they are not going to put it in writing. They do have exposure on this one and they deserve it. When you let fast food executives take over a company you get fast food management. I wonder if all the old HR managers have all hung themselves or found different jobs.


PictureThis, it's really quite common practice for someone to be fired for some inane reason but to have something more official listed as the reason. Nothing will be done. I bet money on it.


Did anyone receive their W-2 from Starbucks yet? I'm still waiting and I live in Seattle...


Ugh.... People, this is why we just need to FOLLOW DRESS CODE ALL THE TIME. Just DO IT. No, you can't wear a gray shirt (even though it's "almost black"), a pink headband, CROCS, or pajama pants. Or show tattoos. I can't, you can't, we don't. Thank you.


"Starbucks pretends to be so liberal and progressive..."

Really? Supporting details?

SBUX Alum Bill

@ crema_the_crop:

I assume your last post indicates that you don't think Starbucks claims to be progressive & enlightened. If so, I disagree with you. Exhibit #1 is the "Starbucks Mission Statement" with the "Six Guiding Principles." Try to read the first one while keeping a straight face. Exhibit #2 is Howard's great work of fiction: "Pour Your Heart Into It," in which he beams with pride about how well he treats his "partners."


Hmmm Dare I mention that the starbucks 1 mile south of starbucks support center has employees of all sorts with piercings, visible tattoos and possibly the strangest hair styles.. That Store manager probably doesn't think Howie would come in otherwise they would enforce dress code.. But if they allow tatts to be accepted... Where would the line be drawn? Would a phallic tattoo on the forearm be ok, well what about a swaztika or a pentagram? I think it's fair if you sign the consent paperwork to at will employment to be let go if you are violating a portion of dress code policy multiple times and who is to say that the other partner do not already have verbal warnings for the same offense.

(former) FLA SM

RE: "at will" employment...

True, most states have "at-will" employment. However, if you are terminated without good reason, you are entitled to unemployment compensation, paid for by the company that fired you. That's why Starbucks (and most other big corporations) go to such great lengths to document "corrective actions" before the firing occurs. If they can prove a sequence of offenses (or one large offense like blatant stealing), they don't have to pay unemployment. The article says the barista was offered his job back less than two weeks later. Wanna bet someone upstairs freaked out when they realized they were going to have to pay unemployment?
It seems, by offering to "un-fire" the barista, Starbucks has admitted they were wrong. Funny how they only do that when it will cost them money.
All that being said, he's suing for "mental anguish"? Really???

Cafe Nervosa

If he kept his tattoos covered, how did his DM know about them?



I don't know what exactly about any of those elements is "liberal" or "progressive". Lofty and pretentious, maybe.... Also, PYHII was written well over ten years ago, when the claims made by Howard very well may have been true.

stinky inky@tattoojam.com

cant remember where i saw it, but starbucks at one time had a grandfather clause concerning those hired with tatoos. i would love to see it now. i know it existed though


Cafe Nervosa, my thoughts exactly!


In most states you have between 30 and 90 days to ask an employee to change something that violates a policy like piercing or tattoos. If you haven't asked them to change within that date, it is illegal to terminate or administer any corrective action.


As a customer, I have always wondered why there are rules banning piercings or tattoos.

It's a coffee shop?


I used to work at a call center and the dress code was business casual.. They had the same tattoo policy, it probably come straight from the lawyers mouth into the corporate hand book. I would always wonder why tattoos had to be hidden for over the phone customers. But accepting diversity also mean going the other way and accepting those that do not enjoy tattoos. If you had a barista who also had a tattoo that was somewhat offensive imagine all the customers it could turn away or how many calls the ethics hotline would get if it was considered offensive. Additionally what would stop someone from tattooing parts of their faces, what would be considered too extreme?


It's a generational thing, in my opinion. For the most part(everything has exceptions), Gen X'ers and older don't have to be told the that visible tattoos, facial piercings, etc., are not acceptable in the workplace. It's automatically understood. Younger generations seems think that "expressing themselves" in whatever way they see fit should not only be tolerated by everyone, but they want to be congratulated for it. I was a retail district manager and worked for my former employer when they implemented their 'no visible tattoo/no facial piercing policy'. The problem was, people get out of hand. You hire someone who has maybe one small facial piercing and a tattoo or two on their forearms. Six months later, they have a pound of metal attached to their face, they've begun working on full sleeves, and you can't remember what you were going to say to them because every time you look at them, you can't help but think, "What the hell?"

Your job isn't about you, it's about the service/product you provide. Your employer doesn't want their customers distracted by a carnival sideshow.

However, in my opinion, this particular situation is either a fairly obvious case of gender discrimination or, less likely, they fired him for reasons they did not want to disclose.


This whole case is dumb.
The dresscode is explained at your first interview. It pisses me off that so many baristas don't get it. Most likely, this seven year partner had been testing the system for sometime and people got sick of him. Good riddance. After seven years he should have known better.


@twiggly I hope someday someone terminates you with a gender bias and I'll bet Ur tone would change in a heartbeat. It's sexual discrimination of his Civil liberties that have been violated, otherwise why would they feel the need to call after the fact to apologize. Why do you think a jury trial was requested so it's not just in a single judge's opinion on the verdict. I would say good riddance to you when Ur fired for simply making to much money which is what I believe they actually targeted him for. I hope this case blows up everything into the light that is wrong with this company.

Dannielle K.

I worked at this Starbucks with this partner - and I can personally attest to the fact that he ALWAYS covered his tattoos, always did his job - almost never EVER missed work, and was loved by ALL. Literally - there are still regulars who ask for him by name and are shocked and sad to hear that he's gone. We all knew he was getting fired for his tattoos, and it was ridiculous. He kept them covered - and in response to Twiggly - he wasn't testing the system...if anything, he was a long-standing exemplification of a model Starbucks employee. Just saying. Got support for my friend. :)

Dannielle K.

to add to that - I'm not saying that his exemplary barista skills negate his need to comply with all Starbucks policies just like everyone else...but he was hired with these tattoos...and there definitely were other people working at our store with visible tattoos, and they weren't asked to quit and they certainly weren't fired. I hope he wins! :)


i have been a starbucks partner for +10 yrs. and have tattoos that are normally visible, except when i am on the floor. i have never been messed with about my tattoos. i imagine there is something more to this guys story...


i know this guy, WAS a patron, and he got screwed. he wore long sleaves in the middle of texas summers to make sure his tattoos were covered. ever been to texas in the summer time? it's hot. damn hot.
the main problem was, he was told he was fired with the support of the district manager, then the district manager calls him up and tells him "you're not fired" (i'm pretty sure that's an exact quote). how would you feel going to work every day with people who fired you, lied to you, and obviously don't like you? that's a pretty stressful situation.


If you're being hired to sell an EMPLOYER'S product whether it's Education, Medicine, or automobiles, or coffee and donuts you are obliged to do it to the employers specifications. If that specification is tattoo-less, then it doesn't matter how "artful" the tattoo is. It also doesn't matter how pretty the wearer of the body art is or whether they are toothless.

If you want to express yourself; develop a product and market it and then sell it; and then you can sport all of the nose rings, tongue piercings, and tattoos and top it off with purple hair. Until that day comes for you, until YOU are responsible for the funding, research & development, payroll, and management of a firm; your job and all rights therein exist at the desecration of your employer. You are an "AT-WILL-EMPLOYEE." Your responsibilities are to do exactly what is required of you by that employer, provided it is noT illegal or possibly not immoral.
(and some employers do REQUIRE employees sign a a morals clause)

How nice and sweet and caring you are for your mother's teeth doesn't change the fact that the majority of employees are "At-Will-Employees," as I suspect you are as well.
It may infuriate you that it IS the employer's right to change course in mid-stream. It may infuriate you that your creativity is stifled. However, the fact remains that you are an employee. You are an employee in an employee saturated jobs market. Moreover; even if jobs were plentiful, it is not your firm.

The beauty or the ugliness of your body art, piercings, and choice of hair colors rarely seen in nature holds no bearings to this subject. How many degrees you have is only as important as those degrees are necessary to the regulations and your ability to preform the tasks asked of you buy your employer. So if your employer chooses a NON tattooed person to preform your duties, it is that employers prerogative.

The issue of this article is of gender discrimination. It became an issue because the Supervisor lacked the necessary skills to do her job. Part of management is the hiring and firing of personnel.


You fire the "At-Will-Employee" by saying: "YOU'RE FIRED."

You do this succinctly. You do this tactfully.

The Employment laws in this country do NOT require an employers to give cause for dismissal.You never give a discharged employee a cause of action. An employer is not required to give sufficient notice. The employee may avail him/herself to the right to file for Unemployment Compensation. If the employee was not fired for insubordination, or lack of performance; in all likely hood that employee will be granted their claim of Unemployment Compensation.


It is a State and Federally regulated tax paid by EMPLOYERS. Paying this employee's claim would certainly be cheaper than a lawsuit. To employers Unemployment Compensation Insurance and the claims against that insurance is the normal cost of doing business.

Now all of you tattooed, pierced people, and people who's un-natural hair color means that your drapes could not possibly match the carpet need to get over yourselves. If you don't like Starbuck's coffee, or their service; fine. Go to Dunkin Donuts, or 7-11, buy and drink your coffee there. If you're an employee and are not under a contract with a specific beginning and ending date of employment; follow the specifications of your employee, or seek employment opportunities else where.

Take your creative selves to the nearest Art Museum and set up shop there and be as artistic as you dare and care to be.

The only issue here is whether Starbucks violated the employment laws with regards to gender. They're specific, and must be observed. They are protected Constitutionally.
Tattoos are not protected speech and neither is it necessary to provide tattoo wearers protection under the law.

I happen to like the StarBucks product.

Thank you,
Susie H.


dear susie,

"your fired" is all that's needed.

"your fired because of your tattoos, while other employees still have tattoos"

that is discrimination.

the manager f-d up.

the DM f-d up even more, by rehiring, because the DM smelled lawsuit.
the world doesn't know about my tatt's because i don't show em, they are for me, and for me only. but i'll be damned if someone who happened to see my tatt's and fire me, and explicitly say it was BECAUSE i had tattoos, i would be the next person in line on this discrimination lawsuit.
and i'd want compensation, cause finding jobs is difficult right about now, and i can't go back to starbucks after i sue them no matter what the consequence.
by all accounts he was hired by the company with tattoo's, he kept them covered, and others still have tattoos and kept their job.

now if the manager had just said "your fired" their would be no recourse.

just sayin'


SUSIE HELFENSTEIN U must really like Ur job at the SSC.
Civil liberties were violated due to a sexual bias. At will has nothing to do with it. Maybe U should read the complaint before trying to slam people with tattoos. Just because Ur closed mind doesn't think anyone should have them doesn't mean that Ur correct. I think the fact that a jury trial is requested is proof enough that the plantiff knows that this verdict should not be left up to "people like you" and their personal opinions, it's a matter of law. This one will be interesting to watch unfold.


"When you no longer feel your job or working environment filled with an OPEN MIND and a positive energy, leave! ''The YES Movie''made by Louis Lautman

Punk Rock Ben

I know punk rock ben personaly and he got a huge tattoo on the fron of his neck while he was employed there. He also had a 2 foot tall pink mohawk. If the tattoo sliped out or his hair started to show and he was the shift lead then who would tell him he needs to hide it again? He would also come get his checks in his full costume. I really think he was violating the dress code.


I know ben personally as well. I also know he never once, in 7 years, recieved any write-ups having ANYTHING to do with dress code. Yet it was so bad that they had to get rid of him so suddenly? He tried to get unemployment. Starbucks lied and told unemployment that he quit. Why does it matter what he looked like when he came to get his check? Wouldn't it only matter when he's on the clock? Let's hope starbucks has a paper trail. We'll all see when this is over. I'm rooting for him.


What were the tattoos of? Seems like pretty significant info we're missing.

Punk Rock Ben

That's my point who was going to write him up if he was the shift lead


... Out of all the places I have worked any employee can get write-ups. When I knew him he was learning how to tattoo at night and working with his BOSSES during the day at starbucks. Everytime I saw him his tattoos were covered, unless I was having a chat with him while he was off the clock and he was on his way to the tattoo parlor in his "costume". All the tattoos I have seen were not offensive, now I'm not going to go check under his slacks, lol.

sildenafil citrate

A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment for decorative or other reasons.

finger techniques

All work and no dress codes must follow, but there are other companies that have no rule to follow. I think one has to adapt to circumstances demand.

managerial accounting homework

Good saying of Starbucks employee says he was fired because the bosses didn't like his tattoos.

certified nursing assistant

I have to add here in this blog that I love playing piano, is some of the things for which I die and I dedicate my life, my piano teacher has nearly 30 years in the management of this instrument, thank you for this contribution and here you leave my comment ...

cna license


employee termination letter

I had been discussing this issue with my older sister the other day, now I will have one particular a lot more argument in my hand when it’ll arrive to confrontation the moment yet again....

The comments to this entry are closed.

Search Site

Ads (2)