NJ woman says Starbucks fired her for not wearing LGBTQ Pride shirt
A New Jersey woman is suing Starbucks and alleging religious discrimination, saying she was fired for refusing to wear an LGBTQ Pride T-shirt at work.
Betsy Fresse, of Newark, was a barista for more than three years at Starbucks locations in Hoboken and then Glen Ridge, according to her lawsuit filed last week in federal court. Fresse said she was fired in August 2019, after Starbucks became aware that her Christian religious beliefs would have prevented her from wearing a company Pride T-shirt.
Starbucks, in a brief response to New Jersey 101.5 this week, said it's simply not true.
"Starbucks does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. Specific to dress code, other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected," a Starbucks spokesperson said in a written response to New Jersey 101.5.
The lawsuit alleges that Fresse, who had transferred to the Glen Ridge store in February 2019 to shorten her commute, was fired "for acting in violation of Starbuck’s Core Values," as a written notice from Starbucks said that she had been handed a PRIDE T-shirt, to which she said that her co-workers "need Jesus."
Fresse said she was never handed the shirt, but had seen a box of them during a meeting with one of the store's managers in June 2019. In her lawsuit, Fresse said she asked the manager if she would be required to wear one of the shirts and she said she was told no.
In her lawsuit, Fresse said for her to wear a shirt that supports LGBTQ Pride would wrongly "show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs."
Fresse said that managers at both Starbucks locations had already been aware of her strong religious beliefs, as she had been unavailable to work shifts on Sundays, as well as Tuesday and Friday evenings to attend church or religious activities on those days.
"Starbucks failed to comply with the law, and terminated my client because she would not betray her faith, a faith which defines who she is as a person. That is actionable and wrong and Starbucks must be held accountable,” Fresse's attorney, Demetrios Stratis said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5.
The Starbucks spokesperson said that the company is aware of claims made in the lawsuit and that they are "without merit."
Fresse is suing for "irreparable injury, monetary damages" and attorneys’ fees and costs.