Starbucks Barista Claims Firing for Refusing to Wear Pride Shirt

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 25, 2020

A former Starbucks barista in New Jersey is suing the corporation because, she alleges, she was fired for refusing to wear a "PRIDE" T-shirt, Reuters reports.

Betsy Fresse said she was fired in August 2019 from her position at the Glen Ridge, New Jersey store, which, according to her complaint, amounts to religious discrimination. Starbucks has said they strive to create "a culture of warmth and belonging." Still, Fresse's attorneys say that culture will ultimately "exclude and silence" Fresse and others with similar religious beliefs if they are "deemed undesirable."

According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Starbucks said the allegations are meritless. "Starbucks aims to create a warm and welcoming environment for partners (employees) and customers. Other than our green apron, no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected."

According to The Miami Herald, Fresse's lawsuit states that "while she holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle and/or make up the LGBTQ community, 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 alleges that when she saw a box of "PRIDE" T-shirts in her manager's office, she refused to wear one because it conflicted with her religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that is the only appropriate context for sexual activity between consenting adults. Fresse said the manager told her she would not have to wear the T-shirt. However, her termination notice states that "upon being handed her PRIDE T-shirt, Betsy stated she did not want to wear a PRIDE T-shirt and that partners 'need Jesus.'"

Fresse is seeking unspecified damages.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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