A Starbucks barista has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company because she says she was fired for not wearing an LGBT PRIDE t-shirt.
Starbucks claims that her suit is “without merit,” that the company does not require employees to wear any item of clothing other than their trademark green apron.
But the woman, Betsy Fresse who worked at Starbucks in Hoboken, N.J., says the reason that was given for her termination was “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.”
Fresse’s trouble with the company began when she transferred to another store in New Jersey.
In June 2019, she and other staffers attended a meeting in the store manager’s office where, she claims, she saw a box of Starbucks Pride T-shirts on the floor by his desk. After the room cleared out, Fresse asked the manager if she would be required to wear the shirt during her shifts. According to Fresse, he said she would not.
But, per her suit, which was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, she was contacted by Starbucks’ ethics and compliance helpline several weeks later regarding her request to be exempt from wearing the Pride shirt. She explained to the ethics and compliance representative that she did not want to war the Pride shirt “because her religious beliefs prevented her from doing so,” the suit states. Then, on Aug. 22, 2019, Fresse was notified she was being terminated because “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.” According to her notice of separation, when she was handed a Pride shirt — which Starbucks maintains employees were not required to wear — Fresse said she didn’t want to wear it and that her co-workers “need Jesus.”
It appears that Fresse ran afoul of a terribly woke store manager and Starbucks corporate is trying to cover for him. They may not have a policy where an employee is “forced” to wear a PRIDE t-shirt. Most retail chains wouldn’t have a set policy stating something like that.
But corporate can strongly urge local managers to “encourage” employees to wear all sorts of garb. It would be up to the local manager how fanatical he wanted to be about getting employees to go along.
Being ordered to wear a Pride shirt as a condition of employment, the suit alleges, “would be tantamount to forced speech and inaccurately show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs.”
Starbucks parades its “corporate values” in front of the public and uses them as a marketing tool for their brand. That brand took a hit in 2018 when two black men walked into a Philadelphia Starbucks to use the restroom and were told the bathrooms were for customers only. The men were then arrested when they refused to leave.
Horrified, a panicked Starbucks CEO closed all 8,000 U.S. stores for a day to hold mandatory anti-bias classes for all employees. No one can say if the classes did any good. But they sure looked good for the company in the headlines they made.
We aren’t sure if Betsy Fresse was fired for not wearing a woke t-shirt or not. That she’s devoutly religious is unquestioned. But we’re only getting one side of the story in her lawsuit and might want to reserve final judgment on Starbucks until we hear from the other side.