A woman from New Jersey is claiming she was fired from Starbucks after refusing to wear an LGBT “Pride” shirt that contradicted her faith-based convictions.
Betsy Fresse, who is Christian, said in a lawsuit filed Nov. 19 she began working as a barista at a Starbucks in Newark in December 2015. After transferring to a new location last year, Fresse said in her suit, she was “assured” by managers her faith would not be an issue.
Several months later, though, Fresse said she noticed a box of Starbucks-branded “Pride” shirts. She then asked her manager if she would be required to wear one, which would violate her beliefs, and her manager told her she would not. After a few weeks, Fresse claimed she was contacted by the coffee company’s ethics and compliance department regarding her choice not to wear the shirt. Then, on Aug. 22, 2019, after explaining why she didn’t want to wear the T-shirt, Fresse said she was fired because “her comportment was not in compliance with Starbucks’ core values.”
Court filings state Fresse “holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle and/or make up the LGBTQ community.” The lawsuit goes on to state the former barista “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.”
Fresse believes 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.”
In her lawsuit, the ex-Starbucks staffer is seeking back pay with interest for emotional suffering, punitive damages, and payment of her attorney fees, according to NJ.com.
A spokesperson for Starbucks told the New York Post that Fresse’s complains “are without merit” and the Seattle-based brand is “fully prepared to present our case in court.”
“Specific to our 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,” added the spokesperson.