Shannon Phillips, a self-proclaimed "loyal" former Starbucks employee who managed various locations in four different states over the course of 13 years, has filed a lawsuit against the coffee chain, claiming that she was the victim of racial discrimination when she was fired in wake of the wrongful arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia store last year, The Daily Beast reports.
"Weeks after the arrests and surrounding media coverage, [Starbucks] took steps to punish white employees who had not been involved in the arrests, but who work in and around the city of Philadelphia, in an effort to convince the community that it had properly responded to the incident," the lawsuit reads.
Phillips' suit is referencing the April 2018 incident where Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were cuffed and escorted out by police officers for sitting inside the Starbucks as they waited for a third person for a business meeting. The company responded by reconsidering its bathroom policy and re-evaluating how their employees deal with customers with racial bias training.
Phillips, who is white, alleges that Starbucks was internally targeting its white employees after the incident. It allegedly started about a month after the arrests when Phillips was forced to suspend a "white employee (who had not had any involvement in the arrests)" for "an allegation of discriminatory conduct" which she says wasn't true.
When she took a meeting with her superiors, Phillips was allegedly told that the manager who she was tasked with suspending had been paying non-white employees less than those who are white. She disputed the claim, stating that store managers cannot determine salaries.
Phillips was fired the next day because "the situation is not recoverable," claiming that the excuse was a "pre-text for race discrimination." She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages over the "embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, mental anguish, and loss of life’s pleasures."
Starbucks has denied the claims.