Starbucks Manager Wins Racial Discrimination Suit

A former Starbucks regional manager was awarded $25 million by a jury due to what she described as discrimination due to her race. Shannon Phillips, who is White, won her case in federal court following a unanimous jury decision.

Phillips’ $25 million settlement and a further $600,000 in compensatory damages come after she claimed that her firing was on racial grounds. Phillips was fired in the aftermath of the arrest of Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson after they attempted to use a Starbucks restroom without making a purchase.

After the two men refused to either leave or purchase an item, an employee called the police, and the two were arrested. Nelson and Robinson, who are Black, were not charged with a specific crime.

The company’s district manager that oversaw the particular store in question is Black.

Starbucks’ CEO Kevin Johnson traveled to Philadelphia to personally apologize to Nelson and Robinson. Johnson also closed 8,000 of the coffee chain’s locations to give its employees racial sensitivity training.

Phillips did not have a direct role in the arrest or its aftermath. She was the regional manager for parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

However, Phillips said that she and other White employees were suspended or fired as penance for the arrest of the two Black men. 

She was ordered to place a White manager with 15 years of experience on administrative leave due to reported racial discrimination, though Phillips disagreed.

Following Philiips’ decision to not suspend the other manager, she was fired. Starbucks told the 13-year employee that “the situation is not recoverable.”

Phillips argued that she was replaced with “substantially less qualified employees who had not complained of race discrimination.” 

Following the decision, the former manager said that she was “very pleased” with the result. She did note that she would further request back pay from the company, which may total nearly $1 million.

The decision is one of the largest in recent history where a White employee argued, and won, that they were discriminated against due to their race.