Starbucks illegally fired a New Jersey woman from her job as a barista because she refused to wear a Pride T-shirt that violated her religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Newark.
Betsy Fresse, of Newark, said her managers at the Glen Ridge location of the coffee chain “assured her” in June 2019 that she didn’t have to wear the T-shirt during her shift. Two months later she was sent a notice of separation that she was being let for “acting in violation of Starbucks’ core values,” the lawsuit filed last week states.
Starbucks couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Hired by Starbucks in 2015 to work at a Hoboken location, Fresse received a transfer to Glen Ridge in February 2019 when she moved from Jersey City to Newark.
Fresse said her managers in both locations knew of her strong religious beliefs and in agreed to let her have off Sunday, Tuesday and Friday evenings to attend church and participate in other religious activities the suit says.
Fresse previously told her co-workers that they “need Jesus,” the notice of separation also says.
While court papers state that Fresse “holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle and/or make up the LGBTQ community, (she) believes that being made to wear a Pride T-shirt as a condition of employment would be tantamount to forced speech and inaccurately show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs.”
Those beliefs, according to the lawsuit, include the idea “that marriage is defined in the Bible as between one man and one woman only, and that any sexual activity which takes place outside of this context is contrary to her understanding of Biblical teaching.”
Fresse is seeking backpay, punitive damages, money for emotional pain and suffering as well as payment of her attorneys’ fees.
She also filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which said in August it was unable to conclude one way or another if Starbucks engaged in religious discrimination.
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