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Starbucks Hit with Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Over Pride Shirts

— November 26, 2020

Earlier this month, a former Starbucks employee sued the franchise after she was allegedly fired for refusing to wear a Pride shirt.

A former Starbucks employee was recently fired after she refused to wear a Pride t-shirt due to her religious beliefs. As a result, she filed a lawsuit against the popular cafe. The former employee is Betsy Fresse, a self-described Christian from Newark. She began working at Starbucks as a barista in December 2015. According to her suit, which was filed last week, she was “assured by managers that her faith wouldn’t be an issue after transferring to a store in Glen Ridge early last year.” 

A ‘Pride’ cake served at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station’s LGBTQ mixer. Public domain. (National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Hughes/112th MPAD/JTF GTMO PAO)

However, a few months later in June 2019, she was in a meeting in a manager’s office and “noticed a box of Starbucks’ Pride shirts on a desk.” Curious, she asked if she’d be required to wear one, which would be tantamount to forced speech because she believes marriage is defined by the Bible as between “one man and one woman only.” The suit states:

“Mrs. Fresse holds the personal religious belief that all people need Jesus…Mrs. Fresse believes that every Christian is called to love and treat everyone with respect and compassion, irrespective of their religious or other beliefs.”

When she asked about the shirts, Fresse’s manager assured her she wouldn’t be required to wear the shirt at work. However, in late August, a district manager told her that “her employment had been terminated,” according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Why was she fired, though? Well, according to the notice of separation from Starbucks, she was fired for “violating the company’s core values.” She also allegedly told her co-workers that they ‘need Jesus’ “when she was given the t-shirt.” The termination notice further stated:

“We enforce these values when we embrace inclusion and diversity and welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives.”

As part of the suit, Fresse accuses the franchise of unlawful discrimination and is seeking back pay, punitive damages, and funds to cover her attorneys’ fees. Additionally, the suit is seeking a “permanent injunction preventing Starbucks from failing to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees.

When asked about the allegations, a representative for Starbucks said:

“We are very aware of the claims by Mrs. Fresse, which are without merit and we are fully prepared to present our case in court…Specific to our dress code, other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected.”


Starbucks fired NJ barista for refusing to wear ‘Pride’ shirt, lawsuit claims

Starbucks barista says she was fired for refusing to wear Pride shirt

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