Starbucks baristas to get schedule improvements

August 14, 2014: 4:33 PM ET
starbucks employee policies
Starbucks takes steps to improve its scheduling system for store workers.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

The story of one employee's daily struggle to plan her life around an unpredictable work schedule prompted a swift response from Starbucks (SBUX).

The nation's leading coffee chain is changing its scheduling policies and taking other steps to make life easier for hourly workers. The changes come after The New York Times published a lengthy story on the hardships faced by a single mother who is trying to manage an erratic work schedule and get an education at the same time.

The company will quickly update its scheduling software to provide "stability and consistency" for its more than 130,000 "store partners," according to an internal e-mail Thursday from Cliff Burrows, the head of Starbucks' U.S. operations.

Starbucks managers will now post schedules at least one week in advance, and store workers should never have to work an opening and closing shift back-to-back, according to Burrows. In addition, if an employee's commute is more than one hour long, Starbucks will transfer them to a closer store as soon as possible.

Burrows said Starbucks is committed to "taking care" of its employees and that he was "troubled" when he read about the 22-year-old employee, Jannette Navarro.

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"Our success is a direct result of the relationship our partners -- like Janette -- have with our customers," said Burrows. "We have a responsibility to support them in balancing their home and work lives."

The company was already working on new human resources policies aimed at improving the employee experience, but decided to expedite the process in response to the Times article, said spokesman Zach Hutson.

Hutson acknowledged that the company had received complaints from workers about scheduling in the past. But he added that managers will now have more leeway when it comes to setting hours for individual employees.

He said Navarro is still with the company and now has a more predictable schedule, working 40 hours a week. That's good news because Navarro often worked fewer hours and was struggling to cover her childcare and housing costs, according to the article.

While he said the company has other improvements in store, Hutson declined to go into details.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been outspoken on a number of social and economic issues, such as same-sex marriage and the push to raise the national minimum wage.

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The company recently announced plans to offer both full- and part-time employees a generous tuition reimbursement benefit that covers two full years of classes. The benefit is through a partnership with Arizona State University's online studies program.

Starbucks also pledged last year to maintain health benefits for employees despite increased costs under the Affordable Care Act. Many other big employers have reduced health coverage in response to the rollout of so-called Obamacare.

-- CNN's Poppy Harlow contributed to this report.

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