Lawsuit filed accusing Starbucks of firing person who refused to wear “Pride” shirt (op-ed)

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GLEN RIDGE, NJ – It seems as though Starbucks can’t manage to go a few months without finding their company name in the news.

And this time the debacle stems from lawsuit recently filed regarding a August 2019 termination of an employee who is claiming she was fired for refusing to wear a “Pride” shirt at work

Starbucks has managed to make headlines in 2020 for all the wrong reasons (from an investor relations standpoint, more than anything).

This year saw headlines related to a cloth-like substance resembling a tampon found in a police officer’s drink from the coffee chain, to one barista filming themselves making a poisonous concoction they dubbed as the “Blue Lives Matter” drink while working. 

And then, of course, there was the July 2020 incident where a Starbucks employee was arrested for allegedly spiting in a police officer’s prepared drink (likely not the smartest move during a pandemic). 

Honestly, a company that has a sole purpose of selling variations of coffee and tea (alongside the occasional pastry or other similar food item) shouldn’t manage to accrue this many national headlines over these sorts of incidents. 

But, alas, here we are. 

The latest fiasco began back in June of 2019 when Betsy Fresse was working as a barista at a Starbucks in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. She had transferred to that location, having previously worked at a Hoboken location since 2018. 

During a June 2019 meeting attended by Fresse and other employees in the store manager’s office, Fresse claims to have noticed a box of “Starbucks Pride” shirts by the manager’s desk. 

According to the lawsuit filed, Fresse had approached the manager after the other employees cleared out of the office and asked if she would be forced to wear said “Starbucks Pride” shirts. 

From from Fresse says of the interaction, she was informed by the manager that she would not be mandated to wear them as a condition of her employment. 

Yet, weeks after the interaction, Fresse said she’d received a call from Starbucks’ ethics and compliance helpline regarding her request to not wear the shirt.

During this conversation with the ethics and compliance representative, Fresse alleges that she’d explained that she didn’t want to wear the “Starbucks Pride” shirt because “her religious beliefs prevented her from doing so.”

Come August 22nd of 2019, Fresse was informed that she was terminated from Starbucks because “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.”

The official notice of termination Fresse had been handed down alleged that when she was handed a “Starbucks Pride”, she stated aloud that her coworkers “need Jesus”.

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While Starbucks maintains that no employees are forced to wear “Starbucks Pride” shirts, the termination is linked to the comment of fellow employees needing “Jesus”. 

Despite Starbucks’ claims for the termination, Fresse contests that characterization and maintains that she “holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle.”

Fresse alleges in the filed suit that the only time she brought up her religious beliefs to coworkers regarding sexuality was when it was “upon specific inquiry” – basically, only when her coworkers asked her about them.  

Back in February of 2020, months after her termination, Fresse filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission related to being fired for her religious beliefs. 

In the filed suit, Fresse is asking for backpay with interest, plus punitive and emotional damages. 

A spokesperson for Starbucks claims that Fresse’s case and claims are “without merit” and that the company is ready to refute her claims in court when the timer arrives.

So here’s to what the entire case boils down to. 

If what Fresse said played out exactly as she described it, basically her getting fired for the mere asking of whether she was forced to wear a “Pride” shirt – then Starbucks certainly would be in the legal wrong here. 

However, if Fresse did make the comment of coworkers needing “Jesus” during the t-shirt inquiry while her coworkers were within earshot – then Starbucks would certainly be well within their right to have fired her for that alleged incident. 

Honestly, either or described version of events from Fresse and Starbucks are entirely plausible scenarios that could’ve played out. 

Because one would have to be kidding themselves to think that a Starbucks employee wouldn’t try to get a coworker or employee fired if they knew that they didn’t support the whole “Pride” movement/ideology. 

Keep in mind, they’ve had to already terminate people this year for spitting in cops’ drinks and making videos online of poisonous concoctions they’d like to see police officers consume for just saying “blue lives matter”. 

Ergo, it’s not at all crazy to think this same company would attract the sort of talent that would fabricate elements of an innocuous interaction in order to see a Christian lose their job. 

As Dave Chappelle famously said in his stand-up comedy special Sticks & Stones from 2019, one must never criticize the LGBT movement in any way, lest they desire to arouse their collective ire: 

“No matter what you do in your artistic expression, you are never, ever, allowed to upset the alphabet people. You know who I mean. Those people who took 20% of the alphabet for themselves. I’d say the letters, but I don’t want to conjure their anger.”

And at the same time, it is also completely plausible to think someone might say at work that a person or persons “need Jesus”.

It’s practically become an almost throw-away expression that has reached the point of being emblazoned on t-shirts available from Wal-Mart

What this case is going to boil down to is what can be proven. 

However, perhaps Starbucks as a whole should really take a gander at who they’re hiring, as they’re not doing a stellar job of attracting talent that keeps them out of the headlines it seems. 

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