A federal jury on Monday found in favor of former Starbucks regional director Shannon Phillips, who sued the company for wrongfully firing her, claiming she was terminated for being White. Phillips, who worked for Starbucks for about 13 years and managed a region of stores in the area, was fired after the arrest of two Black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks in April 2018.
The New Jersey jury returned a verdict of $25.6 million, including $25 million for punitive damages and $600,000 in compensatory damages. The jury ruled unanimously after a six-day trial, the lawyers said, noting that Phillips will also be seeking back and front pay.
Phillips was fired in 2018 in the wake of two Black men getting arrested after sitting at a table at the Starbucks Spruce Street location in Philadelphia to wait for a business associate. The men settled their case against Starbucks for an undisclosed sum and also settled with the city of Philadelphia. After those arrests in 2018, Starbucks closed all 8,000 Starbuck’s U.S. locations for racial-bias training.
Phillips’ attorney said she was a scapegoat for the company to show action was being taken over the arrest of the two men. Phillips said in court documents that Starbucks “took steps to punish White employees who had not been involved in the arrests, but who worked in and around the city of Philadelphia, in an effort to convince the community that it had properly responded to the incident.” Phillips alleged: “I was terminated because I am White. If I was Black, I would not have been terminated. I was terminated because I complained of and objected to race discrimination.”
Editorial credit: Sergey Kohl / Shutterstock.com