Starbucks employee, fired after more than 20 years with the company, says she was essentially made a scapegoat after another employee was caught spitting in a police officer’s drink in 2020.
Kelly Hansen-Grosman, of the Hewitt section of West Milford, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit on Jan. 6 against Starbucks Corporation, as NorthJersey.com first reported.
She also accused the company of disability discrimination, based on her diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.
Two of his company’s superiors are also named as defendants, district manager Matthew Phillips and regional manager Michael Scott, who is additionally charged with invasion of privacy.
In her lawsuit, Hansen-Grosman said she was never charged with misconduct until the end of July 2020 following her reports to Phillips about the allegation that a barista spat in the drink of a law enforcement officer and his promise to the Park Ridge police to cooperate with their investigation.
“We care deeply about the experience that each partner has wearing the green apron, but with respect to our partners, we are unable to comment further on private employment issues and ongoing litigation,” he said. said a Starbucks spokesperson when asked to comment.
Exemplary working file
Hansen-Grosman had been a Starbucks employee since 2000, rising through the barista ranks. In 2016, she became a store manager helping to open the Park Ridge store.
She has been recognized by the company and local authorities for her dedication to the community, with several awards, according to her lawsuit.
In June 2020, the District Manager visited the store with a Regional Manager to present Hansen-Grossman with a plaque honoring his 20 years of service with Starbucks.
A week later, one of the store’s baristas, Kevin Trejo, failed to show up for a store meeting and days later “gave up his shift.”
In July 2020, Hansen-Grosman was made aware of an accusation that Trejo had spit in a law enforcement officer’s drink a few months earlier.
She reported the allegation to the district manager during an interview with each worker, all of whom denied knowledge of any such incident.
The district manager told her she could fire Trejo for abandoning her shift about a week earlier, according to her lawsuit.
Hansen-Grosman said she didn’t feel comfortable firing Trejo because he
was an investigation initiated into a separate allegation by Trejo that he had been discriminated against by a co-worker.
Within two weeks, she received a call from a Park Ridge police detective, who said they were investigating the allegation that Trejo spit in an officer’s drink.
Hansen-Grosman notified Starbucks of the police involvement, and Trejo was arrested days after working at the store.
He was charged with assaulting a law enforcement officer, tampering and creating an unsafe condition.
According to Hansen-Grosman’s lawsuit, that’s when the tone of his interactions with senior management seemed to change drastically.
Hansen-Grosman was ordered to fire Trejo and contact Park Ridge Police to arrange a meeting due to his “tremendous community outreach”.
The district and regional manager, accompanied by another Starbucks executive, later visited the Park Ridge scene and one said he “didn’t represent a multi-million dollar store “, according to the lawsuit.
The regional manager removed community photos, removed store decorations and rearranged store furniture and displays, the suit says.
Hansen-Grosman then received a message from Park Ridge police about a possible meeting — the district manager told him not to respond, according to the lawsuit.
The next day, the manager returned to the store and asked to see the texts on her personal cell phone with the Park Ridge detective.
When she showed him, Scott grabbed his cell phone, scrolled through his text messages, walked away with it, and read texts aloud to someone on his own phone, according to Hansen-Grosman.
He asked if he could capture the text thread, while asking if she had a “personal relationship” with the officer, according to the lawsuit.
“I was made to feel like I had done something wrong with the way I contacted the police department, but no one gave me directions or directions on how to log in,” said Hansen-Grosman told Phillips in an email.
“I love my store, my community and my business. I have been with Starbucks for 20 years and have always been proud to be a partner. I’ve always thought Starbucks was a unique company because of the support and openness we show our partners. Today I feel disparaged and unwelcome,” Hansen-Grosman said in the July 2020 email.
The next day, another person was made manager of the Park Ridge store, while Hansen-Grosman was told there would be “uncomfortable times ahead” for her, according to the suit.
Performance issues raised
A few days later, Phillips and another regional manager delivered a “verbal draft” of a Starbucks performance improvement plan, ultimately released in August 2020 to Hansen-Grosman.
The alleged conduct and incidents detailed in the plan would date back to late 2019 and early 2020 — none of which had been previously addressed, Hansen-Grosman said.
“I believe the company is retaliating against me because of the actions I took in relation to the Kevin Trejo incident. Prior to these events, I was celebrated as a manager and now, after these events, the company wrongly criticizes my performance,” Hansen-Grosman said in a September 2020 email to Phillips.
The plan initiated regular review and discussion meetings, under the PIP protocol.
According to the lawsuit, in October 2020, Hansen-Grosman’s attention deficit disorder diagnosis was made during a meeting with Phillips, during which he said ADD told him about “the approach in as manager”.
Hansen-Grossman then reported Phillips for retaliation and Scott for breach of privacy to Starbucks’ ethics and compliance hotline, which was followed by months of tense and combative meetings, according to her lawsuit.
She was terminated on January 15, 2021 by Philips and another District Manager, due to “failure to meet the expectations of her role and responsibilities as outlined in the Store Manager Job Description “.
Hansen-Grosman is seeking monetary compensation, including back pay.
She also requested that Phillips and Scott be required to attend additional harassment and anti-discrimination training.
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