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Customers walk out after cafe boss claims black people can’t make coffee

9 September 2014

A job applicant at a Sydney cafe spoke up to customers and staff when his interview did not go ahead after the interviewer realised he was black. The candidate who was born in Brazil, addressed people in the cafe informing them of what had happened after the cafe’s owner told him he would not employ a black barista.

According to a Daily Mail article, the cafe owner has admitted making the comments but stands by what he calls a “business decision” saying he thinks customers prefer to be served by “local” staff.

The candidate was not asked any questions regarding his suitability for the job despite having nine years of relevant experience. Upon arrival, he was told that as the cafe’s customers were white they may not like to have their coffee made by a black person. Unsure what to do after the interview was effectively terminated before it had begun, the candidate stood up and addressed the cafe telling them he had just been denied work for being black. Many customers walked out and were also joined by an employee.

Workplace

Unsurprisingly, the incident has sparked some significant bad publicity for the business, with offended customers expressing their views on the company’s Facebook page in addition to comments made to the press by witnesses. Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane also commented on the story saying that the reaction of cafe patrons showed Australians’ commitment to racial equality.

The cafe’s boss appears to have little understanding of his obligations under Australian employment and anti-discrimination laws; when questioned about the incident by journalists, he admitted saying that black people should not make coffee for white people and explained his actions by stating:

I didn’t ask any questions because I prefer the barista to be local, not from Italy or other countries. When I choose staff, maybe the waitresses are better with being local, the same with barista (sic). In some people’s opinions African people can’t make good coffee.”

The Brazilian born job applicant is an Australian citizen who has been working in the Australian cafe industry for nine years. He requested a job interview by telephone and when asked where he was from by the cafe boss stated that he was Brazilian. Despite the concerns expressed by the cafe owner about employing “locals” he admitted to journalists that his current barista is Japanese.

All employers must comply with relevant laws regarding discrimination in the workplace at all stages of the employment relationship from recruitment to promotion and termination. It is advisable for employers to invest in workplace bullying and discrimination training for staff at all levels to ensure awareness of responsibilities in this area. Employers may also wish to seek advice on policies and procedures to ensure that these are also compliant and do not unfairly disadvantage a group or individual because of a protected attribute such as race or ethnicity.

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