A New Jersey woman has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks claiming that she was fired from her barista job because she refused to wear a company t-shirt that promoted LGBT “pride.”
The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 19 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
What are the details?
According to the lawsuit, Betsy Fresse, a Christian from Newark, was attending a meeting in her manager’s office at the Glen Ridge location in June 2019 when she noticed a box of Starbucks-branded “pride” t-shirts, NBC News reported.
Fresse proceeded to ask her manager if she would be required to wear one — which would violate her religious beliefs — and she was allegedly assured that she would not.
But several weeks later, Fresse was contacted by Starbucks’ ethics and compliance department about not wanting to wear the shirt. She told the company official that doing so would compromise her religious beliefs. Then, on Aug. 22, 2019, the lawsuit alleges that Fresse was fired because “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.”
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While court papers state that Fresse “holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle and/or make up the LGBTQ community, (she) believes that being made to wear a Pride T-shirt as a condition of employment would be tantamount to forced speech and inaccurately show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs.” Those beliefs, according to the lawsuit, include the idea “that marriage is defined in the Bible as between one man and one woman only, and that any sexual activity which takes place outside of this context is contrary to her understanding of Biblical teaching.”
Fresse has also filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. The government agency, however, said in August that it could not determine whether Starbucks wrongly terminated Fresse by engaging in religious discrimination, according to NJ.com.
Fresse is seeking back pay with interest, compensation for emotional suffering, punitive damages, and payment of her attorney fees.
What did Starbucks say?
In a statement provided to the New York Post, a representative for the coffee chain said they are prepared to fight Fresse’s claims in court, denying that she was required to wear the “pride” shirt.
“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,” the spokesperson said. “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.”