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Former Starbucks exec alleges wrongful firing, discrimination

A woman who worked as a regional director for Starbucks has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the coffee giant in U.S. District Court here in New Jersey. She is accusing the company of discriminating against her and violating her civil rights because she's white.

She claims that she was fired after 13 years with the company as a response to sensitivity over any perception of racial discrimination following the arrest of two black men last year at a Philadelphia Starbucks.

As our readers may recall, in April 2018, two black men were asked to leave a Starbucks because they hadn't made a purchase. When they declined to leave because they were waiting for a colleague, the manager called the police. They were removed from the store in handcuffs.

The incident led to protests and a lawsuit. The men reached a settlement with Starbucks as well as the City of Philadelphia.

The plaintiff in the wrongful termination suit says she was fired because she objected to placing one of her two Philadelphia district managers on administrative leave for reportedly paying nonwhite employees less than white ones. She says the direction to suspend the manager, a white man, came shortly after the settlement was reached with the two men in the Philadelphia store incident.

According to her lawsuit, district managers don't control salaries, so it's "factually impossible" that the manager engaged in wage discrimination. Further, she says she never observed discriminatory conduct of any kind by the manager.

The defendant, who had responsibility for stores in southern New Jersey, Delaware, Philadelphia and parts of Maryland, claims in her lawsuit 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."

She also said in court documents, "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." She noted that the black district manager with responsibility for the store where the 2018 incident occurred didn't face disciplinary action.

Going up against a large company in court can be daunting. However, if you believe you have a case, it's wise to talk with an attorney experienced in employment law.

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