Former employee sues Starbucks, says they ‘repeatedly ignored’ harassment

East Bay

SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — A former Starbucks barista is suing the company after she says she was continuously harassed by a customer and her employer refused to take action.

According to the lawsuit, the woman claims a regular customer repeatedly sexually harassed her for years while she was working at the Starbucks in Barrington.

The lawsuit says since she transferred to that location in 2014, the customer would make “lewd and inappropriate comments to, and attempts at physical contact” with her.

When she reached out to Starbucks’ human resources equivalent, “Partner Resources,” a representative told her someone from her store would address the customer about his behavior, according to the lawsuit. She claims she was then told by one of her shift managers that he spoke to the customer but she was never informed of what was said or how the company would handle any future incidents.

The lawsuit goes on to say the customer’s harassment continued unabated and in order to avoid serving him, the barista would walk into the back of the coffee shop and have one of her coworkers prepare the man’s order.

After avoiding the customer for several shifts, the lawsuit claims her managers told her she could not avoid the customer because it was “interfering with [her] ability to do her job.” According to the lawsuit, at no time did Partner Resources or the woman’s manager attempt to ban the customer from the business.

The lawsuit claims after enduring years of harassment, the barista was fired in Dec. 2017 because she was 15 minutes late two weeks prior. She believes she was terminated as a result of her complaints and efforts to avoid the customer who was harassing her.

According to the lawsuit, Starbucks “intentionally allowed, and willfully refused to prevent or otherwise resolve, a customer’s longtime wrongful and unlawful sexual harassment, discrimination and intimidating, hostile and abusive conduct in violation of her rights.”

Eyewitness News spoke with a Starbucks representative who said the company can’t comment on pending litigation. However, the representative did say the company has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and does not retaliate against employees for bringing forward concerns.

“We pride ourselves on being a great place for our partners to work,” the company said in a statement. “Throughout our company history, we have focused on providing an inclusive, supportive and safe work environment.”

Eyewitness News reached out to the woman’s attorney who said neither he nor his client wish to comment at this time.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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