LGBTQ+ Orlando Airport Starbucks Baristas File Complaints Under City of Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Baristas at airport Starbucks locations operated by HMSHost allege discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression

ORLANDO — In stark contrast to Starbucks #whatsyourname campaign to advertise Starbucks as a safe space for transgender people, airport Starbucks baristas employed by HMSHost have come forward to tell stories of offensive comments, transphobia, misgendering, and harassment regarding their gender expression and identity. Several baristas have filed complaints under the City of Orlando anti-discrimination ordinance alleging discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression.

“Managers have made transphobic and homophobic comments. It makes me feel in a way that I’m going back into the closet, which is very unnerving to me,” said Gabriel Ocasio Mejias, an HMSHost Starbucks barista at Orlando International Airport. After speaking out about mistreatment and starting to organize a union, Gabriel was fired on February 18, 2020.

Specifically, the complaints allege:

  • Offensive and transphobic comments, harassment regarding workers’ gender expression and identity, and repeated misgendering.
  • A HMSHost Starbucks barista was not allowed to follow the appearance rules applicable to their gender identity.
  • HMSHost managers refuse to print transgender employees’ names on weekly work schedules, and only print their “dead” names.

On the day after the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, a HMSHost manager at a different brand restaurant at the Orlando Airport told an LGBTQ employee that the victims deserved to be shot.

A report released today by hospitality workers union UNITE HERE, entitled “One Job Should Be Enough: Inequality at Starbucks,” details the issues faced by LGBTQ airport Starbucks workers. Multiple transgender baristas at airport Starbucks in Orlando, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Portland, and Denver have reported misgendering from management. The report also reveals that Starbucks workers employed by HMSHost are living in poverty—some have been homeless, slept at the airport, unable to afford food, or forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

“We have reached out to Starbucks about these issues. Unfortunately, Starbucks has not agreed to meet,” said longtime LGBTQ activist and author Cleve Jones. “Starbucks should know better, it should do better, and it should use whatever power it has to fix these problems at HMSHost’s Starbucks stores immediately.”

On February 27th, workers will distribute leaflets to customers outside over 700 Starbucks stores in over 40 cities across North America. Workers are calling on Starbucks to demand that HMSHost create an inclusive and equitable environment, and make one job at airport Starbucks enough to live on.

Media contact: Adam Yalowitz, [email protected], 202-826-4086
Meghan Cohorst, [email protected], 239-503-1533