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Starbucks Workers Back Fired Barista
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Pioneer Press:

Employees and customers protested outside the Starbucks at Selby and Snelling avenues Saturday morning, saying that one of their best baristas was unjustly fired.

Azmera Mebrahtu, who had worked at the store for two years, told co-workers that on July 8 she was led into a back room by two managers and accused of stealing.

The managers then coerced her into signing a promissory note saying she owed the company $1,200, and Starbucks took $100 out of her last paycheck, said Anja Witek, a shift supervisor at the store who helped organize the protest.

"She was the best barista at our store. She knew every customer's drinks, she was the fastest at making lattes," she said.

The theft charges are bogus, Witek said.

Mebrahtu did occasionally undercharge customers, she said. But Witek added that, while the practice is not allowed, other employees also did it. "It was part of our store culture," she said.

Witek said she believed Mebrahtu was targeted in part because she is from Ethiopia and is not entirely fluent in English.

In a written statement, a Starbucks spokesperson said confidentiality prevented the company from sharing specifics about the matter. "However, we can say that we are confident that her separation was justified," the statement said.

Mebrahtu lives in Woodbury with her husband, a taxi driver, and their three children, Witek said. She is currently job hunting.

Sounds to me like the Starbucks java slingers have a weak case. $1,200 in freebies sounds pretty excessive, and the workers who are claiming racial discrimination and a "store culture" of employee theft probably don't know all of the things that Mebrahtu is accused of. Since it's an employee discipline issue, it's protected by federal confidentiality laws and management would be barred from discussing it with them. I'm inclined to doubt that management would fire a stellar employee for minimal reasons.
Employee theft and giveaways are no small potatoes. McDonalds, a franchise operator that practically mints money, closed their location on Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis because employee theft and freebies to friends were so pervasive that the busy store was actually losing money. I've never seen a McDonald's close before once it was established. That's pretty serious. I don't think companies should fire workers for small infractions, but this doesn't seem to fall in that category. If the "spokespeople" for the workers think that stealing from your own boss is no big deal, maybe they need to quit Starbucks and find a company where that "culture" is acceptable ...


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