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Starbucks’ blogging barista fired fairly

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Starbucks is a company some people find easy to hate. It is big. It serves an appetite one might consider a want, not a need. It caters to elitists — people for whom Maxwell House and Folger‘s are not good enough. It is in a field, agriculture, where First World meets and sometimes exploits Third World. It has a mermaid on its logo. So, it is not surprising that a current employee fired for blogging tale, featuring a Starbucks’ barista, has some people sneering, They were already inclined to, and this story bolsters their disdain. Jason Koulouros brought the sad saga of the unemployed Canadian blogger to my attention.

When does criticizing an employer become a firing offence?

That is the question a former Starbucks employee is asking after the ubiquitous coffee chain terminated him this week for profanity-laced remarks he made about a manager, and the company, on an Internet journal.

Matthew Brown, a 28-year-old Starbucks supervisor in Toronto, uses the Blog, or online journal, to keep in touch with friends and family. The diary contained his thoughts, a place where Mr. Brown vented his frustrations about everything from personal issues to work. When a manager refused to let him go home sick, Mr. Brown sounded off about his boss from home. He said he didn’t use his real name, and gave the journal’s address to a select group of people, so he doesn’t know how the diary ended up in Starbucks’ hands.

”I feel violated,” he told Global News.

Predictably, some people commenting on Brown’s dismissal have condemned Starbucks.

Firing an employee for muttering unflattering comments about his employer is ridiculous.

Would you stop buying Starbucks because one of their employees ranted in a blog? Yeah right. Are consumers supposed to believe that everyone who stands behind a fastfood chain’s countertop waiting to serve us, loves their job? Give me a break.

Everyone has had bad days. Maybe the employee’s supervisor was deserving of the comments. Who knows? Who cares.

The real concern here is personal freedom. Should corporate entities have the power to control their employees’ thoughts and expression off the job?

If you answered yes, perhaps you should revisit G. Orwell‘s 1984. We’re talking about brand loyality not the country’s security issues.

And if you do trade freedom for “security” you will end up losing both.

I can’t join the chorus. Since the situation occurred in Canada, American law does not apply. However, if an American employee engaged in the same conduct, he could be legally terminated. Most workers are employees at will and can be dismissed for almost any reason. Any reason includes a silly reason or no reason at all. Furthermore, Goliath does have a valid concern, despite David’s lamentations. Anyone searching for ‘blog’ and ‘Starbucks’ could have happened upon Brown’s blog. Persons doing so would have been treated to a diatribe against the company it did not have an opportunity to respond to. So, the harm Starbucks is attempting to protect itself from is real. Indeed, if multiple employees chose to criticize their employer publicly, the behavior would have a substantial effect. ‘Good will’ — the way consumers feel about a business — may be difficult to quantify, but it has a tangible impact on the success or failure of an enterprise. Diatribes such as Brown’s can harm even a behemoth.

But, what of the “freedom” the naive correspondent above refers to? The truth is there is relatively little of it in workplaces the world over. People trade degrees of freedom, meaning the ability to do what they choose, in return for the necessities of life. Matthew Brown has little choice about how he will behave if he is to remain an employee of just about any company. If he feels violated by being fired for blatantly breaking an employer’s rules, he is destined to have a difficult work life. He has the options of being self-employed, or, finding an employer who does not mind being ridiculed on the Internet. However, Starbucks was on solid ground when it decided to let him go.

Reasonably related

There are myths about the evil allegedly done by the humongous Starbucks Corp. An investigation of the allegations by Willamette Week found them to be mainly false.

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

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About The Diva

  • starbucks was right to fire that employee.
    when you work for someone you should do your job and keep your opinions to yourself.
    if you don’t like the system move on to something else and let some poor third world worker have your place, ( a mexican or poor arab) they’ll appreciate a pay check,thanks for letting me “vent”, Ahmed.

  • sydney

    I can’t believe some of you guys on here.

    This is a simple case of a guy complaining about his boss in what he thought was a private discussion. What the fuck was the boss reading his employee’s journal for anyway? Even if he did stumble across it on the Internet, or if someone snitched to him, there is no reason to believe these comments do any real harm to the boss. How fragile is his ego?

    Starbucks, obviously, wasn’t going to suffer from a few “unflattering comments” directed at one of their employees.

    The truth is there is no real damage done here, other than to the person who has lost their income. Anyone who has ever worked in a managers position knows that a percentage of their employees are not going to like them, and that a percentage of their employees will at some time or other mutter unflattering remarks about them. You just accept that and continue to try to do the best you can.

    This Manager is a vindictive fuck who, it would seem, went out of his way to read his employees journal.

    Such a fuckin joke. As is typical in America you guys are all discussing the legal implications as if this issue needs to go to court. For Christ sakes, every time something goes wrong in a person’s public life, they don’t need to waste public funds by taking it to court.

    If a manager from a Starbucks wants to act like an egomaniacal asshole than he deserves to be judged by those who know him as such.

    And I guess the remaining employees at Starbucks are showing unwavering loyalty to this manager after the firing? We certainly shouldn’t expect any of those remaining employees to mutter unflattering remarks towards him. Problem solved for this manager; wise decision on his behalf.

  • Mac, very true, one must beware of the mask of discrimination, predjudice…


  • Some people think I am an anarchist or something. However, the law is an inherently conservative profession. It is almost impossible to have a good legal mind and not find oneself balancing interests, including those of ‘bad’ entities such as employers. So, when it comes to issues such as this one, I find myself parting company with the IndyMedia set. Note that I am not saying that I think workplaces are wonderful the way they are, but ‘let’s be realistic about the way they are.’

    Doug, one of the avenues that an employee does have when fired is discrimination claims — gender, race, and age. Unions can also mitigate firing of employees at will. So, Mike Kole’s belief in freedom of association (often used to mask discrimination) is not quite the status quo.

    I was in a curmudgeonly mood the other day, so I have another entry some folks will find odd coming from an ‘anarchist’ up. After all, dogs are people, right?

  • As a former employer and current employee, I can see both sides of the inherent respect issues here. No matter which side of things I am on, I expect internal issues to be handled internally. Managers rightly take employees they feel are out of line ‘behind the woodshed’ out of respect. Nobody else hears or sees the employee being addressed, thereby sparing that person public embarassment. As an employer, I expected employees to bring grievances to me out of the same courtesy. This person failed to give this courtesy in posting to the blog. Fair is fair. If a manager publicly dresses down an employee, there are grounds for action against that manager.

    I disagree with the undertone of negativity against working under ‘at-will’ conditions. An employer who hires and fires at will has their freedom of association preserved.

  • Are you sure it wasn’t a racist thing, the blog excuse as a cover up? He is Canadian, you know.

    sorry MacDiva, just ribbing you a bit (take notice to bogcritics letters lately). Anyway, Starbucks probalby had good reason. The guy was sick? Or is he a whiney hypocondriac. To many elements to be answered here to come up with an opinion.


  • It will be interesting to see if this one gets into the courts because it would be a precedent setting case one way or the other

    I have been following this and have not seen anything about the ex-employee taking legal action


  • RJ

    Surprisingly, though, I pretty much agreed with the rest of your post. Good work! 🙂

  • RJ

    “Starbucks is a company some people find easy to hate. It is big. It serves an appetite one might consider a want, not a need.”

    Okay, I’m only three sentences into your post, and I already disagree! 🙂

    “…one might consider a want, not a need…”?

    “…might consider…”???

    Coffee is NOT a “need.” There is no debating this. This isn’t a matter of opinion, where one “might consider” one thing and someone else “might consider” something else.

    Coffee is no more a “need” than cigarettes, Big Macs, or meth.

  • The guy should be so fired – as I would expect to be if I mouthed off about my boss, my employer, in what is, by definition, a public place – the Internet.

    You give it out to friends and family – you’re potentially defaming a man’s reputation.

    Stupid whining MoFO.