Starbucks ordered to pay $25m to ex-employee in racial discrimination case

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Starbucks ordered to pay $25m to ex-employee in racial discrimination case

Starbucks has been ordered to pay a white ex-employee $25.6m (£20.2m) in a racial discrimination case.

Shannon Phillips, a former manager, was fired after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks Philadelphia branch in 2018, leading to large protests. A black colleague kept his job.

A jury ruled race was a factor in her sacking, violating anti-discrimination laws, the BBC’s US partner CBS reports.

Starbucks has been approached for comment.

A federal jury in New Jersey found that Starbucks had violated Ms Phillips’s federal civil rights, as well as a New Jersey law that prohibits discrimination based on race, awarding her $600,000 in compensatory damages and $25m in punitive damages.

The incident occurred at a Starbucks branch in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square in 2018, when one of two black men waiting in the shop was reportedly denied permission to use the toilet because he had not bought anything.

The men – Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson – said they were there for a business meeting and were waiting for someone.

When they refused to leave, staff reportedly called the police, who handcuffed the pair and escorted them from the café.

Their arrests were captured on video and shared online, leading to protests and Starbucks closing all of its 8,000 stores in the US for a day to hold anti-bias training for workers.

Regional manager Ms Phillips was fired while the manager of the shop where the incident took place, who was black, kept his job, according to CBS.

In 2019, Ms Phillips sued Starbucks, accusing them of wrongful termination and of unfairly punishing white employees like her in response to the arrests.

Her lawyers argued that the upper management of Starbucks were “looking for a ‘scapegoat’ to terminate to show action was being taken”.