Starbucks Barista Sues for Wrongful Termination

Samaneh Rezaeian, a former Starbucks barista, claims she was sexually harassed (and followed) by a customer while on the job in Santa Monica. She claims that when she complained about the harassment, she was fired. The suit was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court and alleges wrongful termination, retaliation, harassment and failure to prevent harassment. The plaintiff filed on April 11th, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit states that Rezaeian previously worked at the Lincoln Boulevard Starbucks location. Her job duties included taking orders, preparing drinks and processing customer payments. Rezaeian states that she was encouraged to interact with customers as “part of the Starbucks experience.” She described this requirement as an expectation that Starbucks had for every barista to have a “human connection” with every customer. Prior to the alleged harassment, Rezaeian experienced no notable criticism for her work performance from Starbucks management.

Rezaeian claims that the atmosphere of the workplace changed when one of the male customers started to make inappropriate comments about Rezaeian’s appearance and made it clear to her that he was interested in being with her both socially and romantically. The behavior was unwelcome by Rezaeian. The unwelcome behavior included both unwanted sexual advances (the customer looked at Rezaeian and said he wanted to have sex with her) and one instance of the customer following her around. Rezaeian states in the suit that the behavior of the customer made her uncomfortable, she told him to stop, and she asked her supervisor to take some action to get the customer’s behavior to stop. She states that she even asked for a transfer to another Starbucks location.

According to Rezaeian, her supervisor ignored her concerns and the offensive customer retaliated for her complaints against his behavior by making up complaints about her and the service she provided him as a barista. Following the customer’s complaints, Rezaeian was written up for the false customer accusations. After the write up, Rezaeian states that the harassment continued until she was eventually fired because she wouldn’t accept the man’s behavior and lodged complaints with Starbucks management.

If you have issues with sexual harassment in your workplace or you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated in an act of workplace retaliation, please contact the southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug and Bhowmik.