The newest amenity coming to Starbucks is a depressing one: needle disposal boxes. The company says that they will be installed at some locations because employees have found discarded bloody needles and syringes in bathrooms, USA Today reports. More than 3,750 workers have signed a petition asking for the boxes to be installed in "high-risk" bathrooms. Starbucks says it trains its employees how to deal with needles safely, Business Insider reports, but the petition claims that "employees risk getting poked, and DO get poked, even when following 'protocol' of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles left in bathrooms, tampon disposal boxes, and diaper changing stations." Starbucks' bathrooms are now open to the public, which some workers say has made them more prone to safety issues.
Starbucks also says employees are not forced to clean up needles if they are found, but the petition claims that sometimes a refusal to do so is met with "a veiled threat" that the cost of bringing in a hazmat team will come from the store's budget, meaning "even less staff coverage on an already short-staffed floor because no money to pay them." Employees also say getting poked by a needle hidden in a trash bag is a real concern when taking out bathroom trash at some locations, and some have reported having to take antiviral medications after getting poked to protect themselves after potential exposure to HIV and hepatitis. Starbucks says it will look at foot traffic and other factors when deciding where to install sharps-disposal boxes and will also experiment with using heavier-duty trash bags or removing trash cans entirely from some bathrooms. (How a policy change kept 120 people from getting HIV.)