Starbucks ordered to rehire employee it fired for ‘unionising’ with back pay

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In what comes as a victory for labour rights organisations and regulators, a National Labor Relations Board judge on Friday ruled that Starbucks illegally fired an employee at its Ann Arbor, Michigan store.

The judge ruled that Starbucks “acted with animus” when it fired the employee and ordered the multinational coffee chain to reinstate the fired worker with back pay.

Moreover, the company will have to hold a meeting with the employees, management as well as government representatives where a notice about workers’ rights will be read and Starbucks will have to reassert the agency’s filing that it broke the law. 

Hannah Whitbeck, the employee in question was fired because she helped build support for unionising the Ann Arbor store. 

“I would hope that they learn their lesson, that firing people because they want to start a union is not going to solve their problems. In fact, it’s only going to make it worse.” Whitbeck was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. 

This is not the first time that Starbucks has been ordered by a court to re-hire its illegally fired employees.

As reported by WION, in August, a US federal court ordered the company to reinstate its seven employees who were also fired for unionising.

Read more: US court orders Starbucks to rehire employees it fired for ‘unionising’

Judge Sheryl H. Lipman at the US District Court of the Western District of Tennessee passed the judgement, terming the rehiring as “just and proper”.

Last month, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, a New York City agency sued Starbucks for wrongfully terminating a longtime worker and union organiser. 

As per the agency, the case marks its first lawsuit for a violation of New York City’s “just cause” protections, a 2017 law meant to safeguard the interests of fast-food workers.

Read more: New York City agency sues Starbucks for wrongfully terminating union organiser employee

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently investigating hundreds of allegations of misconduct by Starbucks related to the union campaign, including claims of closing stores to dismantle unions, firing employees, and intimidating and threatening workers to prevent them from unionising. 

While there is already a huge backlog of complaints, NLRB officials suggest that more cases will come to light in the coming year. 

“Given the spike in case intake we are seeing in the field, we can expect even more cases to come before the board in fiscal year 2023,” said Lauren McFerran, NLRB chairperson. 

Starbucks, on multiple occasions, has cleared that it is against any kind of unionising efforts. 

“From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed,” Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ executive vice president stated last year. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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