Photo courtesy Saron Gebresellassi

Starbucks served grande lawsuit by Rye student

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By Anika Syeda

Shannon Mishimagi, a Ryerson fashion communications student, has filed a $1-million lawsuit against her former employer Starbucks, alleging her supervisor attacked her.

In a statement of claim filed with the Superior Court of Justice, Mishimagi claims her supervisor Joe* physically and verbally assaulted her on Oct. 31, 2014, at the Starbucks location where she was working.

Saron Gebresellassi, Mishimagi’s lawyer, describes the incident as an “unaggravated assault,” where Joe tried to burn Mishimagi with a hot drink and shoved whipped cream into her face with his hands.

After the attack, Mishimagi filled out an incident report and met with both her district manager and store manager.

“At the time, they told me that they had never experienced this situation before and that they would have to contact their HR office after the weekend,” Mishimagi said.

Mishimagi argues that other supervisors had had negative experiences working with Joe and approaching the manager had been no help.

“I spoke to one of my supervisors who was working at the time and he told me to call Starbucks HR on my own and not to rely solely on my manager because the manager and this individual had a friendly relationship,” she said.

Her store supervisor conducted an investigation of the incident, contacting two of the four people who were working with Joe and Mishimagi at the time. Gebresellassi deemed the investigation “a shoddy attempt.”

“They eventually told me nothing could be done because there were no witnesses,” Mishimagi said.

After having approached her supervisors, she was scheduled to work under Joe again the following Friday. He was later transferred to a different location.

A second incident took place a month after the first, when Joe phoned the Starbucks location in order to ensure that Mishimagi was currently working there.

“The supervisor told him I was working and he couldn’t come in, but he said he was coming in anyway to pick up an item from this store,” she said.

Joe attempted to enter the store and managed as far as the doorway. Another supervisor had to restrain him and walk him back out.

Mishimagi claims that the numerous complaints made about him amongst most of her coworkers had been overlooked by the store supervisor.

Some of Joe’s actions toward his coworkers included “barking orders when it wasn’t necessary,” physically preventing female co-workers from leaving, charging at another supervisor, tying cups to the back of people’s aprons and laughing about it, and untying people’s aprons without warning or consent, according to Mishimagi.

Mishimagi alleges that Starbucks neglected to offer assistance and counseling, as she has suffered from depression, panic attacks and anxiety attacks. She also stated that Starbucks was negligent in failing to investigate Joe’s background and maintaining her safety after the allegations of abuse.

But according to Carly Suppa, a spokesperson for Starbucks Canada, the coffee chain is “committed to providing a supportive and safe work environment for all of our partners (employees).”

“While personal matters are confidential, we are prepared to vigorously defend the reputation of our partners and our company in this case,” Suppa wrote in an email.

Joe continues to be employed as a supervisor at a location, not far from Mishimagi’s current Starbucks.

*The supervisor’s name has been changed — the allegations have yet to be proven in a court of law.

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