Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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istrative organizations and training centers' direction and emphasis on the importance of strong sexual-harassment policies with legal standing, we assumed we would fi nd most coffee companies had similarly direct and substantial policies in place. We were wrong. Whether or not a policy exists is only the fi rst step. Making sure that people know it exists, know what it covers, and understand the repercussions for violating it is where the work begins. In December of 2016, in an online learning session for competitors and judges pre- ceding a United States Coffee Champs (USCC) Qualifying Barista Competition, a participant made an inappropriate comment to another individual in the chat box. The remark fell into the type of sexual-ha- rassment that gets explained or excused as humor. Of course, the USCC, which exists under the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), has policies that include protections from sexual-harassment, but the policy was largely unknown and unpublicized in the learning sessions. Unfortunately, without a clear understanding of an offi cial policy, no immediate action was taken and the session continued, with the offending individual being reprimanded later and in private. After this specifi c incident, changes were made to the format of the online learning sessions, specifi cally one: Every session would begin with a review of the Barista Competition Code of Conduct, which states that the USCC and the SCA "maintain a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, violent behavior, and sexually offensive behavior or ac- tions." Additionally, the peer-to-peer chat option became more limited so that participants could communicate directly with the organizers but not with one another. Setting the tone of an event, conference call, or meeting to remind attendees what types of behavior and lan- guage are acceptable raises the bar of expectation for everyone. It's a fi rm way of making a statement that harassing comments, whether or not they're meant as jokes, are grounds for immediate dismissal. In general, policies protect employees from coworkers' or supervisors' offending behavior. What if harassment is coming from the other side of the counter in a coffee shop, though? What if it's a customer who is being inappropriate toward an employee? While some policies may not explicitly cover how customers may or may not act, they can be an important tool in keeping customer interactions appropriate. Selina Viguera, manager at Blue Bottle Coffee's Abbot Kinney location in Venice, Calif., says that for her team, just knowing there's a policy in place that protects them gives them a sense of safety. Blue Bottle employees receive the company's sexual-harassment policy in a digital handbook when they join the team. Selina has seen plenty of instances of sexual-harassment from a customer, and has trained café managers on controlling those situations. She says those managers are equipped with the skills and confi dence to take action because they understand the seriousness of Blue Bottle's policy. While not all café managers and their teams have explicit training to deal with harassment from customers, the culture of the café benefi ts from the existence of a clear sexual-harass- ment policy. For some businesses, the need to be direct in regard to sexual-harassment is a top priority. At the soon-to-open Undercurrent Coffee in Charlotte, N.C., cocreator Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp says that hospitality training is the fi rst order of business for new hires, and that training begins with making sure that all staff and customers feel safe. In addition to creating a broad harassment poli- cy and including it in the employee handbook, which Undercurrent did, Diana also included staff training on responding to harassment. 84 barista magazine

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