Starbucks regional manager files lawsuit claiming racial discrimination

After being fired, Shannon Phillips believes she would still be employed by the popular coffee chain if she were Black

Protestors demonstrate outside a Center City Starbucks on April 15, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

A white former regional manager for Starbucks, who oversaw the Philadelphia store where two Black men were arrested last year, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was the victim of racial discrimination.

According to NBC News, Shannon Phillips filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey, claiming she was fired despite taking steps “to learn additional information about the events … address strong community reaction (and) ensure the safety” of Starbucks’ employees and customers in the stores in her region.

READ MORE: Black man says he was kicked out of Starbucks because of his race

Phillips said she was employed for 13 years at Starbucks and, as regional manager, was responsible for stores in southern New Jersey, Philly, Delaware and a portion of Maryland.

In April 2018, employees in one of the Philadelphia stores called 911 to report that two Black men were trespassing. Police ultimately arrested the men and kept them in custody for eight hours, before they were released due to a “lack of evidence.”

A video of the incident went viral and made national news, sparking protests. A lawyer for the men previously said they were in the Starbucks for a business meeting.

Starbucks apologized and took the unprecedented step of closing its more than 8,000 stores across the country so that employees could receive racial sensitivity training.

READ MORE: Starbucks claims racial bias training caused sales decline

Phillips said in the lawsuit that after the incident, Starbucks demanded that she suspend a white Starbucks manager, even though the manager allegedly had nothing to do with the men’s arrests or even the store location where the incident occurred. Phillips said the Black manager who was responsible for the Philly store where the incident occurred was not penalized.

Soon after, Phillips alleges, she was fired with managers telling her “the situation is not recoverable,” according to NBC News.

Phillips said she routinely received positive reviews, bonuses and salary increases. She believes she would still be employed by Starbucks if she were not white.

A Starbucks spokesman told NBC News the suit has no merit “and we’re prepared to present our case in court.”

Phillips is asking for a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.