Starbucks faces new crisis with reports employee may have infected customers with hepatitis A

Sometimes the weakest links in a company’s defense against a crisis – or those most likely to cause one – can be their employees.

This could certainly be the reason for a public health crisis unfolding in New Jersey. News agencies are reporting that a Starbucks employee in Gloucester Township may have infected customers with hepatitis A.

According to CNN, “an employee who went to work in November after testing positive for hepatitis A and handling food may have exposed thousands of customers to the virus.

“The Camden County Health Department was notified of the incident on Wednesday and immediately shut down the Gloucester Township Starbucks site, [county spokesperson Dan] Keashen told CNN.

Public health workers provided 17 hepatitis A vaccines to Starbucks employees on Thursday and set up a pop-up vaccination clinic nearby on Friday and Saturday, Keashen said.

“So far, 800 vaccines have been administered, marking the largest hepatitis A vaccination effort in the history of the state, according to Keashen.

“” People who have frequented this Starbucks and who are not vaccinated against hepatitis A are urged to receive the vaccine as soon as possible, but no later than 14 days after contact, “the health department said in a statement. press release Friday. “

Starbucks Statement

A Starbucks spokesperson told me, “I want to stress that the health and safety of our partners (employees) and communities is and will continue to be our top priority.

“As soon as we were informed of this partner’s diagnosis, we acted quickly to minimize the risks for customers and partners. We work closely with the Camden County Department of Health and fully comply with all requirements. “

About the virus

The CDC said, “Hepatitis A is very contagious. It is spread when a person unwittingly ingests the virus, even in microscopic amounts, through close personal contact with an infected person, or by eating contaminated food or drink. Symptoms of hepatitis A can last up to 2 months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice. Most people with hepatitis A do not have a long-lasting illness. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get the vaccine.

According to Food Safety News, “Hardly a week goes by without yet another announcement from a positive hepatitis A employee endangering coworkers, customers and the restaurant brand.

“There have been illnesses, deaths, thousands of customers have had to queue for preventative vaccines, some restaurants have closed and there have certainly been lawsuits. Over the past few decades, restaurants and insurance companies have paid tens of millions of dollars … “

How Starbucks “Would Have Been Much Better”

Baruch Labunski is a reputation management expert and founder of Rank Secure.

He said, “Starbucks would have done much better in [the New Jersey] health crisis of being ahead of history instead of responding to it. It was a health worker who tested the employee for hepatitis, contacted the county health department with the results, and informed officials that the infected employee had worked at Gloucester Starbucks during the infectious period.

No public statement

“The Camden County Department of Health has issued a press release. Starbucks has shut down its site to clean up and vaccinate its other employees, but has made no public statement. This will likely affect its sales when it reopens as some trust is lost with its customers, ”he said.

Labunski observed that “the cafe should have made its statement, acknowledging the problem and stating what it was going to do to protect the health of other employees and customers. The managers or the franchise owner should also instruct consumers on how to avoid such events in the future regarding all infectious diseases.

“This could require all employees to be vaccinated, to not come if they are not well, or to have regular check-ups.”

Impact on Starbucks

Labunski said, “This incident could seriously damage Starbucks’ reputation as people fear disease in today’s world. It is not enough to clean the facility and vaccinate the employees. The company must visibly reaffirm its safety standards by making a statement and implementing new protocols so that its customers understand its commitment to health and safety.

“More than anything, customers will want to know that the company understands the seriousness of this incident and will accept responsibility for it. They also want to know that this will not happen again. The company must reaffirm these things to maintain its reputation and its image, ”he recommended.

Advice to business leaders

Labunski said, “Companies can learn a lesson, especially food services, by implementing strict health protocols for their employees. This includes making them commit to not coming if they are sick, getting vaccinated regularly, and participating in wellness programs.

“It would also be helpful for companies to include seminars on diseases like hepatitis if they are not already in their ServSafe program. Health services also learned some lessons from this incident by communicating better with food establishments regarding the tests that were reported to them. Business owners and employees should always be the first to know so they can stop service and do what needs to be done to educate and protect employees, ”he advised.

The 2018 Starbucks Crisis in Philadelphia

It was not the first crisis to hit the international channel caused by the actions of an employee.

In 2018, Starbucks made headlines when a Philadelphia employee handcuffed two black men and pulled them out of a store. According to a press report, “These two men said they were just waiting for a friend to arrive and asked to use the toilet in the meantime, where the store manager said, ‘No,’ then told them. asked to leave. ”Police were called when the men refused to leave.

The New York Times said: “The company apologized on Twitter … Later in the day, when the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was all the rage on Twitter, Kevin R. Johnson, chief executive of Starbucks, released a statement in which he called the situation an “objectionable result.”

“Starbucks strongly opposes racial discrimination or profiling,” he said. “Unfortunately, our practices and training led to a bad result – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia Police Department was wrong. Our store manager never wanted these men arrested and it should never have escalated as it has. “

Starbucks then closed thousands of stores across the United States for a day to provide anti-bias training to 175,000 employees.

The training was not completely successful.

A few months later, a Starbucks employee asked six police officers to leave an Arizona restaurant because a customer said they made him uncomfortable. Starbucks apologized to the police.

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