Starbucks has to pay former manager $28.3 million after she was fired for being white
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A federal judge has ordered Starbuck to pay a former employee $28.3 million after she was fired from her job following an incident involving the false arrest of two Black men.
Shannon Phillips sued the coffee shop chain after she was fired, claiming that her white ethnicity had been a factor in her losing her job over the incident, while a colleague - who was a person of colour - did not.
The incident unfolded at a branch in Philadelphia in 2018, when two black men - Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson - were waiting for an associate at the branch. Nelson was denied permission to use the toilet in the branch as he had not made a purchase at the outlet.
When staff subsequently approached the two men to ask if they needed any help, they declined, explaining that they were just there for a business meeting and had regularly used Starbucks outlets for that purpose.
Staff called the police, who then approached the pair in the coffee shop.
In an interview on ABC News Robinson recalled how the officer had approached him, saying: "It was just, 'Get out, you have to leave. You're not buying anything, so you shouldn't be here.'"
He added: "There was no reasoning. They had nothing. They just kept using ‘defiant trespassing’ as their excuse for putting us behind bars."
The two men were handcuffed and taken to the police station, where they were later released without charge. While in custody, Nelson claimed that he was in fear of his life.
Their arrests were captured on a video which went viral, and protests began in response to the incident.
Starbucks responded by conducting racial bias training at its outlets.
However, regional manager Phillips claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed after objecting to a white manager being fired, while the manager of the store in question - who was Black - kept their job.
She alleged that her ethnicity had been a determining factor in her termination.
Her lawyers said: "Upper management of Starbucks were looking for a 'scapegoat' to terminate to show action was being taken."
The claim was upheld, and Starbucks was ordered to pay out $25.6 million initially as a punitive measure for the violation of her federal rights, with a further payment of $2.7 million ordered later as part of a 'court-determined economic loss and attorneys' fee award'.
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson later reached an agreement with Starbucks for an undisclosed sum. They also reached an agreement with Philadelphia in which they were each symbolically paid $1, while the city pledged to spend $200,000 on a program to support young entrepreneurs.