Starbucks manager 'fired for being white' wins £20 million payout

16 June 2023, 08:54

Shannon Phillips was 'fired for being white'
Shannon Phillips was 'fired for being white'. Picture: Facebook/Getty

By Kit Heren

A Starbucks manager who claims she was "fired for being white" has won $26 million (£20 million) in compensation from the giant cafe chain.

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Shannon Phillips was fired in 2018 following outrage after two black men were arrested at a Starbucks branch in Philadelphia.

Ms Phillips, who managed 100 Starbucks outlets in the area, said she was made a "sacrificial lamb" after the embarrassing incident, which saw two men who were waiting for a friend taken off in handcuffs.

Starbucks shut branches in the aftermath of the incident and told its staff to undergo racial bias training as protests erupted nationwide.

Ms Phillips herself was not involved in the incident, but was fired after she refused to put a white manager at the store in question on administrative leave.

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Shannon Phillips managed 100 outlets in the area
Shannon Phillips managed 100 outlets in the area. Picture: Facebook

She did not put the manager on leave because he was not involved in the incident, she said, and because claims that he had been involved in discriminatory misconduct were untrue.

But Ms Phillips said she had worked "to ensure that the retail locations within her area were a safe and welcoming environment for all customers, regardless of race."

Starbucks said she was fired not because she was white, but because she performed badly during a period when the company needed a strong local manager to lead them through a difficult time.

It said: "During this time of crisis, the company’s Philadelphia market needed a leader who could perform."

Read more: Police probe clip of trans Starbucks worker accusing customer of being transphobic and then ‘assaulting’ person filming

Read more: Starbucks customer yelled at by trans employee 'mistakenly called worker 'lady' and goes on holiday to recover'

Two men were arrested in Starbucks while waiting for a friend
Two men were arrested in Starbucks while waiting for a friend. Picture: Getty

Ms Phillips “failed in every aspect of that role,” the coffee behemoth claimed.

But the jury took Ms Phillips side, netting her the substantial payout.

The two men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were given an out-of-court settlement by the company. Kevin Johnson, the company's manager at the time, also apologised to them.

Earlier this year, it was claimed that a row between a Starbucks customer and a trans employee at a branch in the UK that was caught on footage broke out after the customer referred to an employee as a lady.

Friends and relatives said customer Vanessa Thomas had not realised a worker behind the counter did not identify as a woman and had to go on holiday to recover from the incident.

The arrest of the two men sparked protests
The arrest of the two men sparked protests. Picture: Getty

She was seen in footage, posted to social media, being yelled at by a trans worker at the outlet near the Southampton ferry terminal.

The 55-year-old tried to pay with cash but was told she would need to use the card machine.

When the trans worker - who has been sacked over the incident - told her to pay with card, Ms Thomas said: "I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to the lady behind the counter."

A family friend said: "The Starbucks trans employee became very angry and told Vanessa that the person behind the counter doesn't identify as a lady."

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