One former Starbucks employee who is transgender is not impressed with the coffee chain’s trans-affirming U.K. ad campaign, nor is her lawyer.
Maddie Wade, who worked for Starbucks in Fresno, Calif., sued the company in 2018, alleging harassment and discrimination. She said her manager misgendered her and engaged in other hostile behavior. A Fresno County Superior Court judge dismissed the suit last year, contending the manager’s behavior was “not so intolerable” and that the company remedied the situation by transferring Wade. Wade, who eventually resigned from Starbucks on the advice of her therapist, is appealing the decision.
In light of the new ad campaign, which shows a Starbucks barista being the first person in a transgender man’s life to use his chosen name, Wade’s attorney, Arnold Peter, issued a statement calling the ad “a cruel slap in the face to their own employees who have faced hateful and derogatory discrimination in the workplace. The company’s attempt at marketing their position on inclusion and gender equality is both phony and hypocritical to their own employees who have faced discrimination while working in their stores.”
“How are we to believe this kind of message when Starbucks’ own attorneys forcefully argue that misgendering and other hostile behavior endured by a transgender employee does not constitute harassment or discrimination?” he continued.
“While Starbucks may indeed encourage their employees to treat all customers with respect, their recent arguments in court call into question the true intent of their corporate position on LGBTQ rights. It is insincere for Starbucks to take this kind of public position in their customer marketing while treating their own transgender employees like second-class citizens.”
A Starbucks spokesman said last year that the company does not endorse misgendering but that Wade’s case did not meet the standard for harassment. The Advocate has reached out to the company for further comment and will update this story when Starbucks responds.