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Starbucks ousts top lawyer amid union and diversity struggle (2)

Starbucks Corp. General Counsel Rachel Gonzalez has been removed from her position, the company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Gonzalez, who received more than $5.3 million in total compensation from the coffeehouse chain last year, moved into an advisory position ahead of her May 20 departure. Gonzalez did not respond to a request for comment.

The exit comes after the company announced last month that its Chairman Emeritus Howard Schultz would return as interim CEO. Starbucks, which is currently fighting an effort to unionize its coffee shop workers, has also come under scrutiny in recent years from investors for providing anti-bias training to employees.

Starbucks is one of many large public companies that evaluates its outside law firms on certain diversity guidelines. Starbucks’ inclusion efforts include diversifying its boardroom and supply chain, as well as linking executive compensation to diversity goals.

The Coca-Cola Co. recently backed away from its diversity policy, in which the company threatened to withhold up to 30% of fees from law firms that failed to meet staffing metrics. The policy would have required firms to assign various lawyers to work on 30% of new cases and direct at least half of that segment to black lawyers.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said Gonzalez’s separation was unrelated to the company’s diversity initiatives. He declined to discuss Starbucks’ diversity program when contacted last week for an article about the future of those efforts after Coca-Cola’s policy reversal.

Jenkins Acting Chief Legal Officer

Gonzalez, hired by Starbucks in 2018, will receive payments totaling nearly $8 million from Starbucks. The company revealed in a securities filing that Gonzalez will receive a “cash payment in recognition of equity grants” worth more than $4.8 million, as well as nearly $2.3 million in compensation. departure.

Starbucks also agreed to award Gonzalez a prorated bonus of approximately $470,500 for fiscal year 2022 and $20,000 that can be used for attorney’s fees related to the negotiation of his separation agreement, a copy of which is attached to the file.

Starbucks will provide outplacement services to Gonzalez, who until May 20 will remain employed by the Seattle-based company as a non-executive consultant with full benefits and 50% of her base salary.

Securities filings show Gonzalez sold nearly $9.1 million worth of Starbucks stock last year. She owns shares of the company valued at $9 million, according to Bloomberg data.

The filing disclosing Gonzalez’s impending departure is signed by Acting General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins, a 17-year Starbucks veteran. Jenkins, who most recently served as the company’s assistant general counsel, did not respond to a request for comment on the status of its diversity programs.

Jenkins’ profile page on the Starbucks website says she was an “executive champion of the Starbucks Black Partner Network” and an advisor to the diversity committee of its legal and corporate affairs department. She told Legaltech News in 2018 that “diversity is one of the main things listed in our external guidelines.”

Jenkins said at the time that she expected Starbucks’ outside counsel to “consider that we are a diverse company and serve a diverse community.”