Starbucks ordered to pay compensation to employee fired ‘for being white’

Starbucks ordered to pay compensation to employee fired ‘for being white’

A New Jersey jury has found that race was a determinative factor in the firing of a Starbucks regional manager, as the coffee giant scrambled to absolve itself of racism claims in 2018.

Starbucks has been ordered to pay $25.6million in damages to Shannon Phillips for unfairly dismissing her after she refused the company’s order to fire a white employee on false race discrimination charges.

The coffee shop chain found itself at the centre of a racism firestorm in April 2018, after the arrest of two black customers at one of its Philadelphia branches went viral.

The two men allegedly sat in the coffee shop without ordering anything and were refused access to the toilet before being told to leave or else the police would be called.

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, the two men arrested, received a personal apology from the Starbucks’ chief executive, Kevin Johnson, agreed an out-of-court settlement with the company for an undisclosed sum, and were offered free college education.

Starbucks closed 8,000 branches so that 175,000 employees could undergo compulsory racial bias training.

Starbucks then ordered Phillips to put a white male store manager at the branch on administrative leave because of a false race discrimination allegation against him.

Phillips, who managed around 100 stores, refused the order on the grounds that the man chosen was not involved in the incident and the allegations that he had been involved in discriminatory conduct were untrue.

Phillips instead pointed out that the black manager of the store where the arrests were carried out had not faced any disciplinary action.

Having worked for Starbucks for 13 years, Phillips was sacked shortly after speaking out.

In court, Starbucks denied that Phillips had been sacked for being white, reasoning instead that she had been sacked for incompetence.

It said: “During this time of crisis, the company’s Philadelphia market needed a leader who could perform.”

Phillips, it added, “failed in every aspect of that role”.

However the New Jersey federal jury sided with Phillips.

Phillip's lawyer, Carlin Mattiacci, said she was "very pleased" with the decision.

Nelson and Robinson also struck a deal with the city to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.