A federal jury awarded $25.6 million to a white Starbucks manager who was fired after police arrested two Black men at a Philadelphia store she oversaw. The jury said there was sufficient evidence to believe the manager, who was not present for the arrests, was fired because of her race, reports the Washington Post. Shannon Phillips, a former Starbucks regional director, sued the company in 2019 after she said she was terminated for refusing to suspend another White employee amid public outrage over the Black men’s arrest, which occurred after one of the men was refused access to a restroom. Phillips alleged that Starbucks retaliated against her and another White employee in an effort to “convince the community that it had properly responded to the incident" Phillips, who oversaw the managers of Starbucks stores in Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland, worked for the company for almost 13 years.
The jury found that race was a factor in Phillips’s termination and awarded her $600,000 in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages for violations to her rights under state and federal anti-discrimination laws. On April 12, 2018, officers arrested Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson after the Starbucks manager called the police to report “two gentlemen in my cafe that are refusing to make a purchase or leave.” Both men were charged with trespassing and creating a disturbance. Police dropped the charges that night. Robinson said the incident occurred after a manager said restrooms were for paying customers and asked the men if she could get them any drinks or water. Then-Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross apologized to the men and walked back a comment that the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
The men settled with the city of Philadelphia for a symbolic payment of $1 along with a city commitment to fund a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.