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Starbucks barista claimed to be fired for wearing an anti-suicide pin to memorialize a former co-worker

The brand stated that the pin was a violation of the company dress code

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A sign for a Starbucks Coffee shop.

A sign for a Starbucks Coffee shop is pictured in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass., Dec. 13, 2018.

Charles Krupa, Associated Press

Will Westlake, a former Starbucks barista, says he was fired from the coffee company after refusing to remove a mental-health awareness pin that he was wearing in remembrance of a co-worker who died by suicide earlier in the year, according to Bloomberg.

Westlake stated that he and his other co-workers all wore the pin, until management asked for them to be removed and most other employees at the store complied.

Details: Westlake, who has been a union organizer in Buffalo, New York, states that he was fired because he did not remove the pin, even after several warnings from management, stating that the pins violated the dress code.

  • The pin shows interlocked fingers, followed by the text “you are not alone,” along with the website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
  • In a TikTok video posted by the union Starbucks Works United, Westlake states that formerly, employees had been allowed to wear pins, but were told by Starbucks that these specific pins weren’t “becoming of the brand,” Westlake said.
  • Starbucks Workers United has also accused Starbucks of allegedly firing more than 80 people for their involvement in union organizing, according to Bloomberg.

Starbucks’ response: The Seattle Times states that a Starbucks spokesperson said that Westlake was terminated for “refusal to abide by the dress policy,” also citing attendance issues.

  • The spokesperson also states that Starbucks does not retaliate against employees for union involvement.
  • In a post on its website, Starbucks states that employees are protected when it comes to their decision to join a union, even allowing them to wear “a button or pin expressing support for a union or fellow partners,” according to the Times.