Shannon Phillips, a former regional director at Starbucks, has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company, alleging she was fired just for being white.
Phillips says that the company started discriminating against her after a highly publicized arrest of two black men at a Starbucks store in Philadelphia in 2018. Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were asked to leave the coffee shop after sitting at a table without ordering anything. They refused to leave because they were waiting for a business associate and were escorted out in handcuffs.
She says she was terminated just a month after the incident because she was against putting a white district manager on administrative leave for allegedly paying non-white employees less than their white cowokers. The manager wasn’t connected to the store where the two black men were arrested.
Phillips says that this was impossible because district managers couldn’t determine salaried employee compensation because of Starbucks’ own policies and procedures. She added that the district manager worked for the company for 15 years and that she had not witnessed any racially discriminatory comments or conduct from him.
Ms. Phillips said, “I was terminated because I am white. If I was black, I would not have been terminated. I was terminated because I complained of and objected to race discrimination.”
Phillips believes that Starbucks, ” -took steps to punish white employees who had not been involved in the arrests, but who worked in and around the city of Philadelphia, in an effort to convince the community that it had properly responded to the incident.”
When she was told that she would be terminated, Phillips claims that the only reason she was given for her termination was that, “ -the situation is not recoverable.”
Phillips says that she was replaced with a less qualified employee, who had not complained about race discrimination.
Phillips worked for the company for 13 years and was responsible for overseeing operations of Starbucks stores in Southern New Jersey, the Philadelphia region, Delaware and parts of Maryland.
Phillips seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages from the lawsuit. She is also requesting for the court to declare that Starbucks violated her civil rights through unlawful employment discrimination.