White Starbucks Manager Claims Racial Bias In Her Firing After Arrests Of 2 Black Men

By Elisha Fieldstadt

The white, for­mer region­al man­ag­er claims racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in her fir­ing, which came after the arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia Starbucks sparked protests.

Image: Starbucks prepares to close to train staff to prevent racial discrimination in Philadelphia
People enter the Starbucks in Philadelphia’s Center City to par­tic­i­pate in staff train­ing to pre­vent racial dis­crim­i­na­tion on May 29, 2018. The arrest of two black men at the Center City Starbucks sparked local and nation­al out­rage. Jessica Kourkounis /​Reuters

A white for­mer region­al man­ag­er for Starbucks alleges in a law­suit that she was a vic­tim of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion when the cof­fee giant fired her after the arrests of two black men in a Philadelphia store last year sparked local and nation­al out­rage.

In the suit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, Shannon Phillips alleges she was a 13-year employ­ee of Starbucks, over­see­ing stores in south­ern New Jersey, the Philadelphia area, Delaware and parts of Maryland, when employ­ees at a Philadelphia store called 911 in April 2018 to say two black men were tres­pass­ing.

The men, who an attor­ney said were at the store for a busi­ness meet­ing, were arrest­ed.

They were even­tu­al­ly let go after about eight hours in police cus­tody, with a dis­trict attor­ney’s spokesman say­ing there was a “lack of evi­dence” of a crime.

A viral video of the inci­dent drew nation­al head­lines and sparked a wave of protests.

Starbucks did not press any charges, but rather apol­o­gized and, on one morn­ing the fol­low­ing month, closed its more than 8,000 stores across the coun­try for racial sen­si­tiv­i­ty train­ing.

Phillips says in her law­suit that after the arrests she “imme­di­ate­ly took steps to learn addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion about the events … address strong com­mu­ni­ty reac­tion” and “ensure the safe­ty” of Starbucks’ employ­ees and cus­tomers.

She also “took steps to ensure that the retail loca­tions with­in her area were a safe and wel­com­ing envi­ron­ment for all cus­tomers, regard­less of race,” the suit says.

About a month after the arrests, Phillips was ordered to sus­pend one of her sub­or­di­nates, a white 15-year employ­ee, who was a Starbucks man­ag­er but had noth­ing to do with the arrests or the store where they occurred, the suit says. The man­ag­er who was respon­si­ble for the store, who is black, was not penal­ized.

Her boss­es told her that non­white employ­ees at the store whose man­ag­er they want­ed her to sus­pend had been paid less than white employ­ees. Phillips object­ed, point­ing out that store man­agers have noth­ing to do with deter­min­ing salaries, which are set by a dif­fer­ent divi­sion of the com­pa­ny, accord­ing to the law­suit.

The next day, Phillips was fired, with man­agers telling her “the sit­u­a­tion is not recov­er­able.”

Phillips claims in the suit say that she reg­u­lar­ly “received pos­i­tive per­for­mance eval­u­a­tions and relat­ed mer­it dri­ven bonus­es and salary increas­es.” She says she would still have her job if she were not white.

A Starbucks spokesman told NBC News the com­pa­ny denies the law­suit­’s claims: “We do not believe there is any mer­it to it and we’re pre­pared to present our case in court.”

Phillips is seek­ing a jury tri­al and com­pen­sato­ry and puni­tive dam­ages.
First appeared on https://​www​.nbc​news​.com/