Starbucks has faced a wave of criticism after the manager at a Philadelphia location called 911 to have two black men removed from the premises. The arrest was captured on video and posted to Twitter by Melissa DePino. As far as eyewitnesses could tell, the Starbucks employee, Holly Hylton, had no reason to get the police involved as the men were not committing any crimes. Starbucks corporate has promised that its employees will undergo implicit bias training, but another Starbucks employee from the Philadelphia location has now claimed that Holly Hylton had already displayed racist behaviour before her 911 call made national headlines.
Iesha Cash, a 41-year-old Starbucks employee who worked at the 18th and Spruce St location in Philadelphia as a supervisor, told the Daily Mail in an interview that Holly Hylton, 31, had previously displayed racist behaviour even before she called 911 on two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, for “refusing to make a purchase or leave,” according to transcripts of her call. Nelson, who is a member of a fraternity and graduated from Bloomsburg University, and Robinson were escorted out of the Starbucks in handcuffs.
Iesha Cash and the other staff member who worked with Hylton described her as “controlling, aggressive, and emotional,” however Cash noted that she was the only Starbucks employee that Hylton seemed to give a particularly hard time. “Holly always looked for things to complain about and was constantly nitpicking about minor things. I could never do anything right to her,” Cash told the Daily Mail, “one time I ordered an extra sleeve of cups and she went off and gave me a written warning even though we would use them anyway.”
Although Ieshaa Cash was a senior Starbucks employee (her job title was shift supervisor), Hylton had apparently decided to demote her to the barista. This demotion came after Cash had decided to transfer to a new location that was closer to her home. In addition to the demotion (which included a reduction in pay), Cash was to be sent to a different store, even though she had cleared her transfer with her boss. Cash told the Daily Mail that Hylton told her she was “not comfortable” with Cash being a supervisor. When Cash asked for an explanation for the demotion and transfer, Hylton reportedly told her, “that’s the way I feel.” No further explanation was offered.
Cash, a mother of three who moonlights as a stand-up comic, tried to appeal to district management to fight the demotion, but to no avail. Her hours were gradually lowered until she finally made the decision to quit. Cash said she was the only black employee besides an assistant manager who had seniority over Hylton. “I’ve never been in trouble or disciplined and all the regular customers loved me,” Cash told the Daily Mail, “ think it’s because she’s racist, she was trying to push me out because she is uncomfortable with a black person being there.”
Hylton’s behaviour even seemed to extend toward the customers according to Ieshaa Cash. “Holly was very attentive with all the white customers, always making sure they were happy and served quickly,” Cash told the Daily Mail, “but she was cold and standoffish to everyone else and would say ‘they can wait.’ She often made the baristas serve them so she wouldn’t have to.” Cash said there had been issues in the past with people loitering to use the free wi-fi provided by Starbucks, but that Hylton would usually not bother white customers about it. “She always found a reason to kick black people out, she was way more likely to ask them to leave over white people who hadn’t made a purchase,” Cash told the Daily Mail, “Baristas were usually told to ask them to leave because Holly was so uncomfortable confronting them.”
Hylton is no longer a Starbucks employee. She has claimed that it was a mutual decision between her and the company, according to The Grio. A representative from Starbucks told the Daily Mail that Hylton had left “while there is an internal review pending.” Hylton revealed in an interview with TechBook that she would not tell customers when she was calling the police and that it was corporate policy to prohibit excessive loitering. However, she would not comment on whether or not it was normal to call the police on people who were loitering. Starbucks will be closing 8000 corporate locations in the United States on May 29th so that staff can undergo bias training. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the arrests “reprehensible” in an interview with Good Morning America. While Johnson stated that there are times when the police should be called, such as times when threats or disturbances are occurring, he added, “In this case, none of that occurred. It was completely inappropriate to engage the police.”
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