A Philadelphia Starbucks recently came under fire in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by a former regional director.
Shannon Phillips, a former regional director overseeing a Philadelphia Starbucks cafe recently filed a lawsuit against the coffee giant over allegations of racial discrimination. In the suit, Phillips, a white female, argues the company “fired her and unfairly punished other white employees in order to appease protesters” that began protesting against the company after a racially charged incident.
The racially charged incident the suit refers to is the one where one of the managers at the Philadelphia Starbucks cafe “called the police to remove two black men who remained in the cafe after refusing to order anything.” For those who don’t know, the incident was was caught on video and posted on Twitter on April 12 by Melissa “That White Lady” DePino. In her tweet, she said, “the police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything…They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing. All the other white ppl are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”
During interviews following the incident, the two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, told police that “they were simply waiting for another business partner to arrive for a meeting before they ordered.” However, the manager who called the police said she “told the men when they asked to use the restroom that the store policy is that they must first order something.” According to her, the two men “refused to order anything and instead chose to sit down.” From there she allegedly warned them she would have to alert police. When she did, she told the police on a recorded call, “I have two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.”
The Starbucks cafe where the incident occurred has a corporate policy that prohibits excessive loitering. If the policy is violated, “management has the discretion to ensure it’s enforced, even if it means calling the police.” When the police arrived to see what was going on, they asked the two men to leave. However, Nelson and Robinson refused and ended up being handcuffed and escorted out of the cafe.
As a result of the incident, protests broke out across the country and Phillips was allegedly fired to appease the protesters. According to a report, she was “terminated because she objected to placing the white district manager at the 18th and Spruce Streets store on administrative leave for purportedly paying lower salaries to black workers than their white counterparts.” The report continued:
“Phillips, who lives in South Jersey and worked for the coffee chain for 13 years, says Starbucks’ reason for disciplining the manager was ‘factually impossible,’ as the company’s ‘Partner Resources’ branch sets employee salaries without input from the store’s district manager.”
In response to the abrupt terminations, Phillips is suing Starbucks for racial discrimination and is seeking a jury trial.
How has Starbucks responded to the lawsuit? So far the company has denied the accusation and stated, “We deny the claims of the lawsuit and are prepared to defend our case in court.”