A Starbucks manager who was fired following an altercation with a fellow female employee claims that she was laid off because co-workers thought she was a lesbian.
Alicia Brooks, 29, filed a discrimination lawsuit on Feb. 1 with the Supreme Court of New York explaining the series of events that she says led to her termination.
According to the complaint, Brooks was arrested on assault charges following an altercation with a fellow employee identified in the suit as “Juliette.” Brooks alleges that things took a turn for the worse after the fight, when other employees at the coffeehouse started thinking the altercation was a lovers’ fight between the two women.
Brooks claims that after being suspended, she was ordered by Starbucks to sign a statement saying she had had an “improper” relationship with Juliette. Then, she says she was asked during a company meeting in front of 10 other employees if she was a lesbian -- Brooks says in the court document that she’s not a lesbian and has never been in a relationship with Juliette.
Following that meeting Brooks claims in the lawsuit that she was harassed by another female employee, who “constantly” tried to get Brooks to “admit that she is a lesbian.” Brooks was eventually fired in 2012.
Lawyer Emre Polat, who represents Brooks, told the Huffington Post that Starbucks fired his client after she complained about her treatment and requested a transfer to another store.
“Starbucks created and condoned a hostile work environment for Ms. Brooks while continuing to protect and employ those that have committed the discrimination and harassment. Ms. Brooks feared all along that her complaints would be answered with retaliation and shortly after making the complaint, all of her fears became true when she was unlawfully terminated in violation of her statutorily protected rights,” Polat told HuffPost in an email statement.
For its part, Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson, also spoke with HuffPost, saying he “believes there is no factual basis to the allegations [the claim] makes.”
“Starbucks has a long history of promoting equality, inclusion and diversity both in our workplace and in the communities we serve, and we have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Hutson added.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal in New York.
Starbucks said they plan to fight the lawsuit in court.
READ: Brooks lawsuit against Starbucks, uploaded by The Huffington Post.