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Starbuck's Firing in Response to Public Racism Results In $25 Million Verdict

The incident leading to Shannon Phillip's firing made national news. In April 2018, two Black men waited for a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks. One of the men asked to use the bathroom. The employees refused to let him use it and ultimately asked the men to leave. When the men refused, the employees called the police, leading to the men's arrest. In response, Starbucks publicly apologized and closed its stores nationwide to provide racial bias training for all of its employees.

Shannon Phillip, who is white, managed about 100 stores spanning four states at the time of this Philadelphia incident. Phillips alleges Starbucks wanted to punish her and other white employees, irrespective of whether they had been involved in the events. She claims one of her superiors, a Black woman, told Phillips to fire a white manager who had been accused of discrimination (Phillips says she knew the allegations were untrue and refused). Phillips alleges that Starbucks did not act against the Black manager of the Philadelphia store, whom Phillips claims promoted the employee who called the police. Phillips asserts she did not receive negative feedback about her performance and was told that the "situation" was "not recoverable" when the company fired her. Starbucks claims Phillips responded poorly following the incident, and it fired her for that reason.

A federal jury in New Jersey found Starbucks violated Phillip’s civil rights and New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law based on her race. The jury awarded her $600,000 in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.