Just months after coffee colossus Starbucks was accused of erasing Pride from store locations across the country, the company is being sued by a lesbian and gender non-conforming employee who claims she was passed over for promotion because she is “gay” and “looks like a boy.”
Jahmelia “Jay” Peters is suing Starbucks, claiming the company denied her a promotion at a White Plains, New York store despite previous experience in the role due to her sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression.
One store manager allegedly threw out Pride decorations rather than display them.
The store manager promoted a woman he was pursuing for sex instead, the suit claims.
The civil action, filed in New York Supreme Court, alleges unlawful discrimination and retaliation. Peters is seeking compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress, including back and front pay, as well as punitive damages for the manager’s “outrageous conduct.”
According to the complaint, Peters’ boss told store colleagues that she would not be promoted because she was “gay” and “looks like a boy.” Peters was subsequently fired while on break for questioning the manager’s decision.
Peters says she has yet to receive her final paycheck in what the suit characterizes as a final act of retaliation from the company.
The suit describes how a cisgender, straight female employee at the store whom the manager had taken an “inappropriate flirtatious interest in” was promoted to shift leader over Peters, despite having less experience and expressly stating that she did not want the promotion.
According to Peters’ lawyers, this was not the only woman in the store that the manager had sought to curry favor with in order to have a sexual relationship; he often shared intimate, flirtatious text messages with other straight female employees in the store.
“This is a human rights issue,” said Bennitta Joseph, Peters’ counsel with Joseph & Norinsberg LLC. “Ms. Peters was denied the civil right to fair treatment in the workplace based on her gender expression, identity, and her sexual orientation.”
The allegation comes just months after more than 3,500 Starbucks workers in 150 store locations went on strike in June, claiming regional managers in more than 100 Starbucks locations in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma shut down Pride displays after “consulting with upper leadership.”
Starbucks denied the allegations, saying it never asked any stores to remove their Pride decorations, and accused the union representing Starbucks employees, Starbucks Workers United, of spreading false information as a bargaining “tactic.”
“STRIKE WITH PRIDE!” the union advised employees the final week of Pride Month.