in a lawsuit filed in New Jersey on Monday (Oct. 28), Shannon Phillips accuses Starbucks of trying to “convince the community that it had properly responded to the incident,” by punishing white employees who had “no involvement in the arrest.”
Phillips, a former regional manager and 13-year employee overseeing stores in Southern New Jersey, parts of Philadelphia, Delaware and parts of Maryland, was terminated a month after the men were racially profiled, NBC News reports.
The complaint alleges that Starbucks punished white employees, but did nothing to penalize the black manager who oversaw the store where two black men were arrested in April 2018, after a Starbucks employee called 911 on them for asking to use the bathroom without buying anything. Video of the incident went viral, sparking boycotts against the company. Starbucks released an apology and shut down its U.S. stores for a daylong racial sensitivity employee training course.
Phillips meanwhile, worked to “ensure” that the Starbucks locations in her area offered a “safe and welcoming environment for all customers, regardless of race,” according to her lawsuit. She was fired a day after refusing to suspend a white district manager amid claims of discriminatory conduct that she “knew to be false,” and “factually impossible.” The manager, a 15-year employee who was not involved in the racial profiling incident, had complaints against him from nonwhite employees who alleged that they were paid less than their white counterparts. Phillips refused to discipline the manager, noting that she had no jurisdiction over employee salaries.
Phillips claims that race was a motivating factor in her firing, and that she suffered ”irreparable injury.” She is suing for compensatory and punitive damages.
“We do not believe there is any merit to it and we’re prepared to present our case in court,” the company said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. In an additional statement to ABC News Starbucks said that the company is “fully prepared” to defend itself in court.