Starbucks employee fired for refusal to wear pro-LGBT shirt, lawsuit claims

by Joel Abbott · Nov 27th, 2020 2:11 pm
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Last Updated Nov 28th, 2020 at 11:24 pm

A former New Jersey Starbucks barista has filed a lawsuit against the coffee chain, alleging she was fired for her refusal to wear a pro-LGBT "Pride" T-shirt on the job.

The ex-employee, Betsy Fresse, is a Christian who began working for the company in 2015 and claims she was "assured" by management her faith would not be an issue when transferring to a new store in Glen Ridge in early 2019.

Fresse alleges that she then had a conversation with supervisors in June 2019 when she saw a box of Starbuck's LGBT pride shirts on a desk in the manager's office during a meeting. She inquired if wearing the shirts would be mandatory and expressed that she felt it would be "tantamount to forced speech" due to her belief in the biblical definition of marriage between "one man and one woman only."

Despite assurances that she would not be required to wear the shirt, Fresse says she was contacted by Starbucks's ethics and compliance department a few weeks later. Fresse told the company representative that she did not want to wear the shirt because of her faith. Fresse then says she was fired on August 22, 2019 because "her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks' core values."

"We enforce these values when we embrace inclusion and diversity, and welcome and learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives," said Fresse's termination notice from the company.

Her notice of termination also reportedly claimed that she had told her co-workers they "need Jesus" when she was handed one of the pro-LGBT shirts.

In addition to seeking backpay and remuneration for legal fees, Fresse's lawsuit is pursuing litigation that would prevent Starbucks from "failing to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs" of other employees in the future.

Starbucks has denied the allegations and said it does not require employees to wear any branded content other than its trademarked green apron.

"We are very aware of the claims by Mrs. Fresse, which are without merit and we are fully prepared to present our case in court," said a Starbucks spokesman in response to the lawsuit. "Specific to our dress code, other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected."

🔦 Starbucks has a long history of supporting progressive causes, including making allowing staff to wear clothing in support of Black Lives Matter, celebrating transgender individuals in official advertisements, and selling a full line of LGBT Pride products in its stores.


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