Starbucks loses lawsuit and must pay $25 million to former manager it fired for being white

"I was terminated because I am white. If I was black, I would not have been terminated," said the former employee of the international coffee chain.

A federal jury in New Jersey ruled in favor of former Starbucks regional manager Shannon Phillips, who sued the coffeehouse chain for scapegoating her and firing her for being white.

Philips sued Starbucks in 2019 after she worked for the company for 13 years and was booted in an attempt to calm protests generated after two black men were arrested in one of Starbucks' Philadelphia stores.

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," the complaint stated.

The former manager alleged that she was fired after she complained about racial discrimination after she was told to fire a white employee. "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 said.

Although the international chain denied that the dismissal was racially motivated, the jury ruled that the employee's skin color was a determining factor in her dismissal. Therefore Starbucks violated the civil rights of Shannon Phillips in addition to a local law prohibiting racial discrimination.

The company must now pay $600,000 in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages to the former employee.

The incident before the dismissal

In 2018 Starbucks faced a public relations crisis after two black men who had not ordered anything were denied the use of the restroom in one of its stores. The staff asked the gentlemen to leave the cafeteria. However, the men refused to leave because (they said) they were waiting for a business partner.

This led to the manager calling the police, and a short time later, the authorities ended up escorting them out of the store in handcuffs. The arrest of the men was filmed and uploaded to social networks. After a short time, the video went viral and sparked large protests against Starbucks.

Shortly after that, the company decided to fire Phillips, while the manager of the store where the events occurred, who was black, was allowed to continue working.