A former shop manager at Starbucks has been awarded a compensation payout of $25.6 million from the company after a jury found that she had been removed from her position because of her race.
In the wake of an event that took place in 2018 at a Starbucks location in the Rittenhouse Square district of Philadelphia, the previous regional manager for Starbucks, Shannon Phillips, who was responsible for overseeing hundreds of coffee shops, was terminated from her position by the corporation.
The incident included two Black males who were waiting for a third party for a business meeting at the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks. One of the men, Rashon Nelson, was denied permission to use the toilet since he hadn’t purchased anything during his visit to the coffee shop. The other man involved in the incident was not identified.
After that, a staff member at the store asked Nelson and his business partner, Donte Robinson, if they required assistance. The two people gave up. The officers came shortly after being called for assistance by the employees of Starbucks, placed the individuals in handcuffs, and then led them out of the establishment.
Their arrests were recorded and disseminated to a large audience. After the protests began, the firm decided to close all of its locations in order to provide employees with anti-discrimination training.
Shannon Phillips, the regional manager, was let go, while the Black manager of the coffee shop in Rittenhouse Square was allowed to keep his position. Phillips was sacked. Phillips filed a lawsuit against Starbucks in 2019, claiming that racial bias played a role in the decision to terminate her employment.
Her attorneys contended that “upper management of Starbucks was looking for a scapegoat to terminate in order to show action was being taken” in response to the incident that included the two Black males.
After finding that Starbucks had violated Phillips’ federal civil rights as well as a New Jersey law that prohibits discrimination based on race, a federal jury in Camden, New Jersey, decided on Monday that their claim was valid and awarded Phillips $600,000 in compensatory damages as well as $25 million in punitive damages. The jury came to this conclusion after finding that Starbucks had violated both sets of laws.
Helen Rella, an attorney specializing in employment law at Wilk Auslander, explains that this case is exceptional due to the fact that anti-discrimination laws have historically served to protect those who belong to minority categories.
“The decision in the Starbucks case, that found Starbucks liable for race discrimination relative to a white employee who was terminated, sends the signal that all races are protected from discrimination – not just those who are considered minorities. It should serve as a reminder to employers that they need to carefully consider their actions in order to ensure that they are compliant with anti-discrimination laws across the board.