- Last week, Starbucks announced a new leave of absence policy, which allows employees to receive benefits while taking up to 120 days of unpaid leave.
- Rossann Williams, the president of Starbucks' company-operated business in the US and Canada, said the company used employees' feedback to decide "how to best support partners who are not getting the hours they need."
- Some workers feel frustrated by their options, with one employee saying he and his coworkers are "tired, worn down, mentally and physically exhausted" after working during the coronavirus pandemic.
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As Starbucks attempts reopens stores that were shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, employees are faced with the choice between taking unpaid leave or potentially seeing hours cut.
This week, Starbucks workers are being presented with a choice to quit, take a leave of absence, or continue working for the coffee giant understanding that they may face reduced hours, due to stores' shortened hours and modified operations.
Rossann Williams, the president of Starbucks' company-operated business in the US and Canada, announced the new leave of absence policy last week. Employees, referred to the company as "partners," can request this week to take an unpaid leave of absence of up to 120 days.
"Your feedback has been critical as we consider how to best support partners who are not getting the hours they need, including implementing a new COVID-19 Leave of Absence policy for partners who prefer to take an unpaid leave through Sept. 30 and accrue up to 20 hours per week toward benefits eligibility," Williams wrote.
According to the letter, the policy is intended to allow workers to keep Starbucks benefits, while qualifying for unemployment benefits. Starbucks will continue to pay healthcare premiums for worker who are enrolled in one of the chain's plans. The company is also lowering the number of hours employees need to work to be eligible for benefits.
The new policies come as Starbucks ends its policies to pay workers, whether or not they come to work, and its $3 pay bump to reward workers that did work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some workers are stressed and frustrated by their options
Some employees have pushed back against the new policies.
One Starbucks manager told Business Insider that, while many employees were originally happy with the options, confusion and uncertainty about when stores will rehire staff is sparking some frustration. For example, he said, some managers are trying to guilt employees into not taking time off because they are worried about being left with a "skeleton of a crew."
"Starbucks is focused on rebuilding their business, and rightfully so," the manager said. "But jumping in so quickly to do so when the threat of the pandemic is still so close, and now with thousands of the population engaged in protests, we and our families are all still very much at risk.
This employee and two others who spoke with Business Insider requested anonymity in order to speak frankly about the situation without fear of retribution. Business Insider verified their employment at Starbucks with pay stubs or other documents.
In late May, Starbucks said that comparable sales at reopened stores were down 35% to 40% compared to the prior year. But, some employees at stores with modified hours and operations say that they feel they have been working harder than ever.
The Starbucks manager said that he and his coworkers are "tired, worn down, mentally and physically exhausted" after working during the coronavirus pandemic. A second worker said his Starbucks location is doing a booming drive-thru business and called the decision to cut hours "ridiculous."
A third said that her location is doing everything it can to avoid cutting employees' hours.
"My hours have been cut but I've been able to pick up a few more shifts from other Starbucks partners in the next few weeks," she said. "I'm hoping we won't have to cut too many hours as this is (at least for my store) where the majority of us make our money."
"Out of this crisis, just as those of our past, will come lasting progress," Johnson wrote in May. "I predict that progress, whatever shape it takes, will lead to greater joy in each of us and more sense of community than we've ever known."
Some workers vented frustration on social media
Other Starbucks employees who took to social media expressed similar frustrations over the company's policies.
"Also if y'all thought @Starbucks was a good company: We were just informed today that we are no longer getting paid for the hours that were cut/lost because of the pandemic and some people are going to forced to take an Unpaid Leave of Absence!" one person wrote . "All so they can make more money!"
They continued : "We were informed by our SM that some partners would be asked to take unpaid leave, and others to have their hours drastically cut and not be compensated for it. What's the deal with that? We have people here struggling to make ends meet and you've made it 10x worse by doing this."
Others echoed concerns over the company's decision to cut hours and said they felt like the company was asking employees to take on more responsibilities.
"How the f--- are we suppose to keep up and keep safe when we are all ran ragged from the increased workload," another person wrote .
Restaurants are adjusting to a new normal as businesses reopen
Starbucks workers previously told Business Insider they felt they were forced to choose between their health and receiving a paycheck when the company last month reopened shuttered locations and ended 'catastrophe pay' for workers who chose not to return to work amid safety concerns.
Kevin Martin, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks store in New Hampshire told Business Insider at the end of April he felt the company's messaging to employees had been unclear.
"I think it's just requiring us to put our lives in danger for something as silly as just coffee, and the people who create these rules have the luxury of being able to work from home and not be in close proximity of hundreds of people a day," he said.
Other employees at the time expressed a desire to collect unemployment benefits but said they were ineligible because their choice to stay home from a re-opened Starbucks cafe due to their desire to protect the health of themselves and their family members was voluntary.
Starbucks is far from the only chain that is cutting back on labor, even as restaurants reopen.
Chains have been slow to reopen dining rooms, even as states once again allow businesses to reopen. Fewer workers are needed to operate a locations that is exclusively serving drive-thru, delivery, and curbside orders. As of late April, 8 million restaurant industry workers were out of work, according to the National Restaurant Association.
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