- She allegedly told co-workers that they ‘need Jesus’.
A Christian barista is suing Starbucks claiming the chain fired her because she refused to wear a company Pride t-shirt.
Betsy Fresse from New Jersey, USA says she refused to wear the t-shirt because it would be ‘a contradiction to her religious beliefs’.
However, Starbucks says Fresse’s claims are ‘without merit’.
The lawsuit filings say Fresse believes ‘that God created man and woman, that marriage is defined in the Bible as between one man and one woman only, and that any sexual activity which takes place outside of this context is contrary to her understanding of Biblical teaching.’
And the filings claim that if she had to wear a Pride shirt at work it ‘would be tantamount to forced speech and inaccurately show her advocacy of a lifestyle in direct contradiction to her religious beliefs’.
‘All people need Jesus’
Fresse started working at Starbucks in Hoboken, New Jersey in 2018. At the time, she says her managers knew she was a Christian. She regularly requested Sundays and some evenings off to go to church events.
She then transferred to a Starbucks in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.
In June 2019, the branch received a stock of Starbucks Pride t-shirts. Fresse asked her manager if she would have to wear one and claims the manager said she would not.
But the lawsuit says Starbucks ethics and compliance helpline contacted her several weeks later about the incident.
She told them she didn’t want to wear the t-shirt ‘because her religious beliefs prevented her from doing so’.
But on 22 August 2019, Starbucks fired her.
Starbucks says employees didn’t have to wear the t-shirts. But it maintains that when Freese was handed one of them, she not only refused to wear it but also said her co-workers ‘need Jesus’.
In her suit, Freese says ‘all people need Jesus’. And she says Christians have ‘to express in word and deeds Christ’s love for everyone’.
She admits she shared her religious beliefs about sexuality when co-workers asked her.
Despite this, she claims she ‘holds no enmity toward individuals who ascribe to the LGBTQ lifestyle’.
Her case in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey demands back pay with interest, punitive damages and compensation for emotional pain and suffering.
However Starbucks is ready to fight the case in court.
A spokesperson for the coffee chain told NBC News that, other than Starbucks’ trademark green apron, ‘no part of our dress code requires partners to wear any approved items that they have not personally selected’.
The spokesperson added: ‘Starbucks does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.’