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Investors to Starbucks: Is your parental leave policy fair?

Tip of the iceberg?

In what has been called potentially "the first shareholder proposal calling for a company to rethink its policy on paid family leave," Starbucks is being pressured to publicly address a glaring gap that exists regarding a key employee benefit.

Namely, that is time off for a worker following the birth of a child. Starbucks' family leave policy is anything but consistent on that matter.

To wit: A female corporate employee gets 16 weeks' paid time off after having a child, with fathers employed in the company's corporate offices receiving 12 weeks of paid leave. Conversely, the benefit for mothers in the retail sphere is only six weeks, with dads similarly employed receiving no paid leave at all.

That dichotomy -- facially glaring and a growing point of contention for the dominant coffee chain -- is fast becoming a major headache for Starbucks principals, especially in the recent wake of a major shareholder's proposal regarding the policy.

Here's what that entity wants: a corporate rethink on the matter, potentially followed by an adjustment that more closely aligns stated company values with actual benefits accorded workers.

That iceberg reference: the asset management company/shareholder making the demand states that a number of other major American businesses -- including Amazon, Apple and UPS -- could soon be facing similar scrutiny for questionable leave practices at their companies.

"You can't have corporate without us," says one mother working in retail for Starbucks, "so why would one have a better benefit than the other?"

That's a question that Starbucks is going to have to address.

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