Barista Fired for Eating Out of the Garbage: Wrongful Termination?

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 6th, 2013

Starbuck’s policy claims it’s for health reasons

A Starbucks barista claims he was recently fired for eating one of the cafe’s famous breakfast sandwiches — out of the garbage.

Coulson Loptmann, 21, says his manager told him eating something from the trash is “considered stealing,” according to a report in Seattle-based alternative weekly The Stranger. Loptmann explained, however, the sandwich was expired and had already been marked out.

“It sounds ridiculous, but having bread and mustard and mayonnaise and some kind of meat and lettuce—it doesn’t sound expensive, but that adds up. … There were some days where I lived off of Starbucks food,” said Loptmann, who used to get a 30 percent discount and a few free coffees a day from Starbucks.

On the day he took the sandwich from the garbage, Loptmann said: “I hadn’t eaten all day and I was on a seven-hour shift.”

He didn’t think anyone at the company would have a problem with it but he was wrong.

A week later, his manager sat him down and told him she had found out about him taking the sandwich from the garbage and took the matter to human resources. He was then told: “they consider it stealing, and it’s against policy. So I’m sorry, but I have to terminate you.” Loptmann was fired on the spot.

Loptmann reports he made $9.94 an hour for 23 to 32 hours a week and brought in another $30 in tips — at most $348 before taxes and that he had asked for more hours, but did not receive them. He survives partly on food stamps because his paycheck isn’t always enough for him to buy food.

Eating marked-out food at Starbucks is against company policy — because it’s considered stealing, and for health reasons. “We don’t want our partners to consume something that could make them sick,” Starbucks spokesman Zach Hutson said.

Hutson confirmed Loptmann’s firing and said an employee wouldn’t normally be let go for a single violation of this policy, but Loptmann was let go in light of a history of “documented performance issues,” which he declined to specify.

Fast Food Workers Face A Tough Situation

The situation for fast food workers can be tough with little chance for advancement and 70 percent earn between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour.

“Not only are wages low in these industries, but you compound it with the fact that you’re not even getting full time hours and that contributes to the very high poverty rates that these workers experience,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, attorney at the National Employment Law Project. Many of the workers are forced into such government programs as food stamps and subsidized housing.

All this comes on the heels of a worker strike planned across the nation this month.

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