Black Florida Man Racially Profiled While Using Starbucks Restroom

A Black man said he was racially profiled at a Starbucks in Florida for using the bathroom. Lorne Green told WFTS that he plans to sue Starbucks for discrimination. The 44-year-old public insurance adjuster said he entered the coffee shop on West Brandon Boulevard in Tampa Bay, Florida to work and used the bathroom before placing an order at the counter. He said he heard an employee say “the big Black guy is headed for the bathroom."

While Green was using the bathroom, he told WFTS that he heard employees banging on the door and asking, “Do you need us to call fire rescue?” Green told the news station he was concerned for his safety and called Starbucks corporate to tell them about the incident. “I have never experienced anything like this to this degree. This is extreme," Green told WFTS.

Green’s attorney, Jasmine Rand, told WFTS that her client had recorded the conversation while speaking to the Starbucks corporate employee. Green told Bay News 9 he was afraid to open the door of the bathroom. “I didn’t know what was on the other side of that door,” Green told the news station. “‘Cause no one identified who they were and it felt like a crowd of people and I was thinking, 'Do you really want to open this door right now?'”

Rand told Bay News 9 that the employees telling Green they were going to call fire rescue was just a way to get him to leave the bathroom. “This incessant knocking starts,” Rand told the news station. “It became very clear that asking him if he needed fire rescue was not actually about helping Mr. Lorne. Simply, all my client did was use the bathroom while Black.”

Rand told The North Star that Green has patronized this particular Starbucks before, but said the last time he visited was for a meeting with a white business partner. She said Green is adamant about fighting for justice for himself and for others who have been discriminated against.

“It’s important for him to not only advocate for himself, but for other people. [Starbucks] cannot keep treating Black males this way,” Rand told The North Star. Green told WFTS that once he did leave the bathroom an "angry and hostile white female employee" confronted him. Deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrived on scene and gave Green a one-year trespass notice.

Green told the news station he wants the female employee to be fired. His attorney told The North Star that Green will be moving forward with a lawsuit against the coffee shop. In a statement to TNS, a Starbucks spokesperson said the incident is under investigation.

“We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and take this type of accusation very seriously. We are conducting an investigation to understand what happened and will take appropriate action,” the statement read. “Everyone — our partners and customers alike — should feel welcome and treated with respect in our stores.”

This is not the first time Starbucks has been accused of racial profiling. In April 2018, two Black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia after one of the men had asked to use the bathroom. Video of the incident went viral.

Entrepreneurs Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson previously told The Washington Post that they had arrived early to a meeting at a Starbucks the day they were arrested. Nelson asked a white manager if he could use the restroom but the manager told him the bathroom was only for paying customers. A few minutes later, police officers arrived at the coffee shop, and the two men were arrested without being told why and did not have their rights read, according to the publication.

The charges against the men were dropped, and the city and Starbucks apologized to the two men, the Post reported. The city and the men reached an agreement, asking for a symbolic payment of $1 each and for $200,000 to help fund a grant program for high school students who want to become entrepreneurs. Following the incident, Starbucks held a company-wide racial-bias training session in May 2018, NPR previously reported.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.