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Court finds racial discrimination in Starbucks manager’s termination, awards $25M.

Awarded $25 Million: Starbucks Manager Wins Lawsuit Over Race Discrimination

A federal jury has awarded Shannon Phillips, a former regional manager at Starbucks, over $25 million in a landmark ruling. Phillips, who was fired after staff at one of her stores called the police on two black men in 2018, successfully argued that her termination was racially motivated.

In the unanimous ruling, the jury awarded Shannon Phillips $25 million in punitive damages and $600,000 in compensatory damages.

Phillips’ lawsuit alleged that Starbucks violated New Jersey law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by firing her based on her race. Her lawyer, Laura Carlin Mattiacci, expressed satisfaction with the verdict, stating that Phillips had provided “clear and convincing evidence” to warrant punitive damages.

Phillips’ Exemplary Career and Unjust Termination

As a regional manager overseeing around 100 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, Phillips had been promoted for her exceptional performance. However, Starbucks claimed that she was fired due to poor performance, stating that the Philadelphia market needed a more capable leader.

One of the stores in her region, the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks, gained national attention when it denied bathroom access to two black men, resulting in their arrest.

The incident sparked protests and led Starbucks to implement sensitivity training for its employees. Phillips later alleged that the company began unfairly punishing white employees, including herself, to demonstrate their handling of the situation.

Discrimination and Double Standards

Phillips cited an incident where she was instructed to suspend a white manager, Benjamin Trinsey, based on racial discrimination allegations. Despite believing Trinsey was not racist and had no control over employee wages, Phillips followed the directive and suspended him. Two days later, she was fired.

Phillips also highlighted the contrasting treatment of a black manager at the Rittenhouse Square store, who faced no disciplinary action despite numerous complaints about his management style. Testimony from another black district manager suggested that Starbucks wanted to send a “strong message” after the racial incident, implying that Phillips’ race played a role in her termination.

Phillips vehemently denied Starbucks’ claims of poor performance, presenting evidence of her active involvement in the company’s reputation restoration efforts. She organized store managers to cover shifts at stores affected by protests and provided emotional support to her team during the controversy.

This groundbreaking verdict serves as a reminder that racial discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated, and companies must be held accountable for their actions.


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