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A white former Starbucks regional director is crying racism after she was fired from her position not too long after an infamous 2018 racial profiling incident.

According to the Philadelphia Informer, Shannon Phillips led Starbuck’s retail operations in the Philadelphia region, southern New Jersey, Delaware and parts of Maryland. She held her position during the time when two Black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, were wrongfully arrested for sitting in a Starbucks, sparking national outcry.

Phillips says she had nothing to do with the two arrests, yet she says she was terminated less than a month after the incident because she protested placing the white district manager at the 18th and Spruce Streets store on administrative leave. The manager faced administrative leave because they allegedly paid Black workers a lower salary than their white counterparts.

Phillips, a South Jersey resident, worked for the coffee chain for 13 years. She says that Starbucks’ reason for disciplining the manager was “factually impossible,” since the company’s “Partner Resources” branch sets employee salaries without input from the store’s district manager.

Rather than wage discrimination, Phillip claims in a lawsuit that the actions against the manager were prompted by the viral arrests of Nelson and Robinson in April 2018. The two were arrested after being profiled by a Starbuck’s employee. Nelson and Robinson say they were just waiting for a meeting, but because they wouldn’t buy anything the employee called the police on them.

After the major backlash from their arrest, Phillips’ suit alleges that Starbucks tried 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.”

A day after Phillips objected to suspending the white manager, a 15-year employee of Starbucks, she was told that she was being terminated and that “the situation is not recoverable,” the lawsuit says.

The suit also accuses Starbucks of not taking any action against the store’s Black district manager, who allegedly was behind promoting the employee who called the police on Nelson and Robinson before the arrest took place.

Starbucks denies the claims in the lawsuit and is ready to defend its case in court, according to a spokesperson.

Phillips argues that she’s been praised for her “exceptional” performance and she had received a bonus a month before she was let go. She says she was on track for a promotion to a position with Starbucks’ government and community affairs unit right before the two Black men were arrested.

Phillips is suing the coffee chain for loss of earning capacity, benefits, “pain and suffering, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, mental anguish, and loss of life’s pleasures.”


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