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Sexual Harassment and Disability Discrimination Case Filed Against Starbucks in Brooklyn Federal Court

A former shift manager at Starbucks has filed a discrimination case in the Eastern District of New York alleging that she was sexually harassed, subjected to a hostile work environment because of her disability and retaliated against when she complained, ultimately being terminated while she was on an approved disability leave.

According to the federal court complaint of Kari Smith, she was an 11-year employee of Starbucks who suffered from a medical condition known as syncope, which causes uncontrollable and unpredictable fainting. Ms. Smith claims that she was ridiculed and humiliated because of her disability. After complaining about the behavior of her coworkers, Ms. Smith alleged that she was demoted and transferred to different stores.

At one of Starbucks locations in Brooklyn, Ms. Smith alleges that the discriminatory conduct became even worse when her coworkers would "joke" about the injuries she suffered from fainting episodes. According to the complaint, male employees would make comments to Ms. Smith and customers, such as "Your must like it rough!" "Next time she'll do what I say" "She's in Fight Club, but not very good at it!" and "She needs to leave her boyfriend." Ms. Smith alleges that when she required medical treatment her supervisor would say "You're ruining everyone else's lives!" and "You're an inconvenience to everyone else in the store."

In additional to the disability discrimination, Ms. Smith claims that she was also sexually harassed at the Brooklyn location. Ms. Smith alleges that it was routine for offensive comments to be made about female body parts. She claims that one employee would repeatedly ask her if she wanted to "make out" with him. Other male employees would engage in a "game" that involved bending over and pinning women between their behind and the wall. This was known as getting "a** raped." Ms. Smith describes an isolated room in the basement, which had no cameras as being openly referred to as the "rape room."

Ms. Smith alleges that Starbucks was well-aware of the conduct at this store as Ms. Smith complained to the store manager and also the district manager. Starbucks ultimately fired Ms. Smith when she was out on an approved disability leave stating that she failed to provide the company with certain paperwork. Ms. Smith alleges that the company never inquired about the supposedly missing paperwork nor did it provide her with an opportunity to remedy any deficiencies with her disability leave. Ms. Smith states that she "brought this suit to hold Starbucks accountable for the way I was treated and to make sure others do not have to work in the same painful environment."

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