Former Starbucks Employee Files Sexual Harassment and Disability
11-year Starbucks employee was sexually harassed and ridiculed due to her
disability, only to be fired without notice while she was on an approved
disability leave, after she had complained about the hostile work environment.
NEW YORK, May 7, 2013
NEW YORK, May 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --Kari Smith, a former shift supervisor at
Starbucks, filed a discrimination case yesterday in the Eastern District of
New York alleging that she was sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile
work environment due to her disability, retaliated against when she complained
and ultimately terminated while she was on an approved disability leave.
As the Complaint alleges, Ms. Smith was an eleven year Starbucks employee.
Ms. Smith suffers from a medical condition known as Syncope, which causes
uncontrollable and unpredictable fainting. Ms. Smith worked at a few
Starbucks locations in Brooklyn, and at each location she was ridiculed and
humiliated for her disability. After Ms. Smith complained about her treatment
she was demoted and transferred to different stores.
As alleged in the Complaint, Ms. Smith's treatment was particularly egregious
at the Starbucks located in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. There, when Ms. Smith
would suffer injuries from fainting episodes, male employees would "joke"
about Ms. Smith's condition, making comments to her and customers, such as
"You 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." When
Ms. Smith required treatment, the store manager would tell her, "You're
ruining everyone else's lives!" and "You're an inconvenience to everyone else
in the store!"
The Complaint also alleges that Ms. Smith was sexually harassed at the Cobble
Hill location. It was common-place for offensive comments to be made about
female body parts. One employee would repeatedly ask Ms. Smith if she wanted
to "make out" with him. Male employees at the Cobble Hill store would engage
in what they considered a purported "game" of bending over and pinning women
between their behind and the wall. This became known as getting "a** raped."
Moreover, there was an isolated storage room in the basement of the Cobble
Hill store which was dark and had no cameras and was openly referred to as the
"rape room." Starbucks was well aware of the conduct at this store as Ms.
Smith made complaints to her store manager and district manager.
Starbucks ultimately fired Ms. Smith while she was out on an approved leave
for the stated reason that she did not provide the company with certain
necessary disability paperwork. Despite being an 11 year employee, and being
in constant communication with the company during her leave, Starbucks never
inquired with Ms. Smith as to the supposedly necessary paperwork, nor provided
her any opportunity to cure any supposed deficiencies, before callously firing
her without notice.
Douglas H. Wigdor, a partner at Thompson Wigdor LLP stated, "Starbucks fired
Ms. Smith when she was at her most vulnerable. While Starbucks likes to hold
itself out as a progressive company, even their best marketing and public
relations efforts cannot conceal the outrageous conduct Ms. Smith was
Ms. Smith stated that, "I 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
The case is entitled Kari Smith v. Starbucks Corporation, Case No. 13 CV 2732,
and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New
York. Additional information about the case can be obtained from and all
inquiries may be directed to Douglas H. Wigdor at the offices of Thompson
Wigdor LLP in New York, New York at (212) 257-6800.
About Thompson Wigdor: Thompson Wigdor LLP (http://www.thompsonwigdor.com)
is a law firm specializing in high-profile employment litigation. They can be
reached at (212) 257-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Thompson Wigdor LLP
Contact: Douglas H. Wigdor, Esq., Thompson Wigdor LLP, (212) 257-6800,
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