A Starbucks regional director has been found guilty of racial discrimination by a New Jersey jury, according to Laura Mattiacci, the lead trial counsel in the case from Console Mattiacci Law. The jury awarded $600,000 in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages, as confirmed by Mattiacci.
The plaintiff, a White regional director responsible for managing Starbucks locations in Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, was terminated following a racially charged incident that occurred at a Philadelphia store in 2018. During the incident, a Starbucks employee called the police on two Black men who were meeting with another individual at the store. The men were subsequently arrested on suspicion of trespassing, which caused a national outcry and led to Starbucks temporarily closing all its stores for racial bias training.
According to the complaint, the company took actions to punish White employees who were not involved in the arrests but worked in and around Philadelphia, in an attempt to demonstrate an appropriate response to the incident and mend community relations.
The federal jury’s verdict, delivered on Monday, found Starbucks liable under both federal and New Jersey state law, as stated by Mattiacci. She expressed gratitude for the jury’s attentiveness and dedication in considering all the evidence presented during the trial.
This case stands as a rare but not unprecedented instance where a White plaintiff has successfully demonstrated racial discrimination in court, motivated by a company’s apparent efforts to address diversity and inclusion objectives. In a similar example from late 2021, a federal jury ruled in favor of a White male applicant who was terminated despite positive evaluations and replaced by two female workers.
However, it’s worth noting that courts have been known to dismiss such claims when lacking merit. For instance, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a similar case in late 2022, where a school district successfully demonstrated that it hired a Black athletic director over White competitors based on legitimate reasons.
Starbucks did not provide a comment in response to the request for a statement.