A Christian barista has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks after she claims she was fired for refusing to wear one of the company’s “Pride” t-shirts celebrating LGBTQ rights.
Betsy Fresse, who was first hired with the company in 2018, said she was terminated from the Glen Ridge, New Jersey store in 2019 after she saw a box of rainbow-colored “pride” shirts in the corner of her manager’s office and asked if she’d be required to wear one and explained that doing so would run contrary to her faith. She claims that at the time, she was told “no.”
But a few weeks later, Fresse, whose traditional Christian beliefs include the principle that marriage is between one man and one woman, said she was contacted by the company’s ethics and compliance department and asked why she had refused to wear the shirt. Per her lawsuit, she reportedly explained that the shirt conflicted with her religious beliefs. By the end of August, she’d received a letter saying her employment had been terminated because “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.”
Fresse filed a complaint for wrongful termination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission back in February, then filed her suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in August of this year, roughly one full year after she was fired. In her suit, Fresse is seeking back pay with interest, compensation for emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages, saying that the company’s alleged attemps at forcing her to wear the shirt were “tantamount to forced speech and inaccurately show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs.”
The company said in a statement to NBC News that it will fight Fresse’s claims in court, alleging that they never required employees to wear the shirt or any other apparel other than their signature green aprons.