Starbucks Barista: Fired For Trash Diving

Starbucks barista Coulson Loptmann claims he was fired for 'stealing.'

Of all the reasons someone might get fired, trash-can diving seems peculiar. That's what Coulson Loptmann, a 21-year-old former Starbucks barista, claims happened, as he says he was busted for eating a sandwich from the trash, according to The Stranger blog.

Loptmann told the blog that 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 relied on food stamps to make ends meet. He said that he asked for more hours but didn't receive them and was fired because Starbucks considered taking the sandwich from the trash "stealing."

A Starbucks spokesperson told AOL Jobs that Loptmann was fired not just for eating food tossed because it was out of date, but for a history of "documented performance issues," which he declined to specify.

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The situation for fast food workers can be tough. They have little chance for advancement and 70 percent earn between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour. Seventy percent of them are older than 20 and are not teenagers, and a quarter of adults in fast food have children.

"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, in an interview with AOL Jobs. Many of the workers are forced into such government programs as food stamps and subsidized housing.

It's a tough-sounding story when labor, religious, and social welfare groups are backing fast food worker strikes scheduled in a planned 50 cites on August 29.

Loptmann, who didn't return phone calls from AOL Jobs, told The Stranger that he barely had money to spend on lunch, was on a 7-hour shift, and "hadn't eaten all day." He claimed that he was fired about a week afterward because the company considered taking one of the sandwiches "stealing."

"Normally we wouldn't discuss a former partner's employment history but there are things being inaccurately portrayed," said Starbucks spokesperson Zach Hutson said in an interview with AOL Jobs. "Our policy is for food safety reasons that our partners should not consume products that have expired. Although we take this policy seriously, in general a partner would not be let go for violating it. But this partner had documented performance issues over the past year including failing to show up for shifts on time when scheduled."

When asked for additional details like how many problems Loptmann allegedly had or their nature, Hutson said, "I can't go into specifics."

Starbucks has a good reputation as an employer, according to Fortune Magazine. The publication consistently ranks it as one of the 100 best companies to work for.

According to Hutson, Starbucks offers subsidized health insurance to all employees who work at least 20 hours a week. All employees get stock no matter how many hours, and there is a tuition reimbursement program.

But a big majority of baristas are either currently students or looking to be students, according to the company, and so there could be a different perception of needs. Furthermore, as Hutson said, employees can ask for more hours but managers "give preference to partners that show up on-time for their shifts."

All that said, Starbucks is not a stranger to controversy. A group of baristas in New York sued the company but lost over keeping their tips and not sharing them with managers. One disabled man alleged that Starbucks wouldn't hire him because of his condition. One barista alleged that Starbucks fired her for being too old. And some fast food chains pay $12 an hour or more, which is significantly higher than the $8.77 per hour that company baristas make, according to career site Glassdoor .

Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman

Contributor

Erik Sherman has written for the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He's a regular contributor to CBS MoneyWatch and Inc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman.

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Daddy

Everyone dumps on Wa;lmart for paying their employees what they pay them, why isnt anyone crying about places like Starbucks npot paying their employees enough to not need food stamps

February 25 2014 at 2:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mitzi

if you take something from the trash it is not stealing because item has been discarded. If I see a sofa on the street I am free to take it. If it were "stealing" why didn't they involve the police? Oh yeah, I know , even the police would have laughed their badges off.

September 11 2013 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bobby Blast

I used to be a manager for Starbucks for 5 years. The policy is in place for 2 reasons. First, in an age where so many people are litigious, Starbucks doesn't want to be held liable for food borne illness that may result from partners (employees) eating expired food. Second, discouraging partners from eating expired food is also meant to prevent partners from "stashing" food until it can be marked out, which is not only theft from the company but also limits options for paying customers. Inevitably there will be food that is marked out, and it is to be donated to a local homeless shelter. Partners receive a 30% discount and free beverages while working. So, what this headline should really read is "Starbucks barista fired after stealing food from local homeless shelter and poor attendance; Takes to the Internet to whine about it like a spoiled, entitled child."

September 11 2013 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dennisamattson

BASTARDS... Guess I'll be making MY morning coffee from a Keurig from now on.. **** YOU STARBUCKS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

September 11 2013 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rini1946

First taking food out of trash is kind of sick. But to stick up for mgt. 1 if he got sick he would have taking them to court and sued (and with the bleeding heart jury) he could have won. 2. I worked in food place and they caught people taking good food and putting in the trash and taking it out latter basically stealing. And on another note I think all companies should not be able to hire an extra server, stock person till they give the other employees a chance work 40 hrs. a week. Like the story says we are paying their employees with food stamp and other government hand outs. Thank you Walmart

September 11 2013 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Thomas Gilbert

I do not taking food from the trash he should be rehired back I feel taking food out of the trash isn\'t stealing next time wait for it to take outside.

September 11 2013 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pam

I wonder if this article has anything to do with the recent decision to support Obamacare? Is Starbucks going to be a target now? Just saying........

September 04 2013 at 7:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M

What "the public" doesn't realize is that food can be stolen from trash by being improperly placed there.

Anyone eat at Wendy's? Did you ever notice that the self-serve trash cans there DO NOT allow the trays to fit down the round hole where the trash goes? That little innovation (invention?) saves the managers from having to poke through the trash to retrieve trays that would somehow find their way into the trash otherwise... (And don't even think about a WalMart's trash, or recycling...They have been known to call the police and press charges.)

Managers at restaurants that use metal tableware can testify how much of that finds its way to their trash, possibly along with boxes of frozen things, like steaks, shrimp, salmon, etc...
People poking around in the trash aren't always looking for a half-eaten sandwich, but might find a wrapped sandwich that "expired" or was an incorrect special order...
There is too much precedent for theft there, as well as health hazards.

August 30 2013 at 6:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rtgarton

Basically you can take your high priced designer crap coffee and put it somewhere. A good cup of joe should cost no more than a dollar. Who gives a hoot about a Latte or a whatever. You see these exec clowns in NYC walking around with their little cups and their smart phones and I want to vomit.

August 29 2013 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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