New York City is suing Starbucks over the “wrongful termination” of a barista who worked at an Astoria store that had just voted to unionize, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection said Friday.
Austin Locke, who had worked for Starbucks for the past six years, was canned on July 5 — a month after employees at the store voted in favor of a union.
Locke filed a complaint with DCWP, which found that Starbucks retaliated against him for his organizing activities.
Starbucks claimed it fired him for failing to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire and for falsely reporting that a supervisor “placed his hand” on Locke’s chest to prevent him from entering a room, according to the complaint, which was filed on Thursday with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
“DCWP stands ready to fight for the dignity and respect that all workers deserve from their employers,” DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga said in a statement. “To all New York City fast food workers, if you believe you have been illegally fired from your workplace, do not hesitate to contact us.”
The agency is calling on Starbucks to give Locke his job back, give him back pay and other compensation for lost work. And it is ordering the java giant to pay civil penalties for violating the city’s fair workweek law.
Starbucks said in a statement, “We do not comment on pending litigation. However, we do intend to defend against the alleged violations of the New York City Just Cause Law.”
The complaint represents the city’s first legal action under the July 2021 Just Cause law, which prevents fast food restaurants from firing workers without “just cause.”
Over the past year, 235 Starbucks stores have been unionized.