Starbucks employee files sexual-harassment suit | News | Palo Alto Online |


Starbucks employee files sexual-harassment suit

Palo Alto worker says she was assaulted by store manager

A Starbucks employee filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company Aug. 7 alleging gender violence, assault and battery against her at the store's University Avenue location in Palo Alto, according to court documents filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The suit alleges that store manager Ted de La Cruz began making offensive comments and engaged in inappropriate behavior shortly after the plaintiff began working there in 2005. De la Cruz is listed as a defendant in the suit.

De la Cruz allegedly regularly made sexually graphic comments to her, including inquiries into her sex life with her husband.

He allegedly acted inappropriately toward several other employees as well, who were penalized after complaining, the suit alleges.

By 2010, the abuse against the plaintiff became physical, the suit says, and de La Cruz allegedly touched her body and private areas. He also pinched and punched her several times, the suit states.

The harassment continued in a graphic manner, according to the suit, and she and other employees complained to superiors about the abuse to employees. In February 2013, the plaintiff complained to a supervisor. Her complaint was not kept anonymous and was made known to other employees, and she became the target of hostility, the suit alleges.

De La Cruz left Starbucks in February, but the hostility by employees and supervisors who liked him continued.

The employee was then over-scheduled five to nine hours for several weeks, despite having communicated verbally and in writing that she could not work more than 25 hours per week due to another job. She was also forced to work during her break times. She had worked for 20 to 21 hours per week for the previous eight years prior to her complaint, the lawsuit noted.

The woman's attorney, Kelly Armstrong of San Francisco, said there have not yet been any criminal charges filed against de La Cruz.

"She just wants to work in an environment free of harassment and abuse," Armstrong said.

Her client "is not in a position to leave her job because the pay and benefits are essential to her survival and well being," she said.

Starbucks University Avenue is the chain's flagship store.

"We want to send a clear message when managers and supervisors are aware of sexual harassment in the workplace, it needs to stop immediately," Armstrong said.

Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Riley said the company takes the allegations very seriously.

"Starbucks strives to be an employer-of-choice, and we have zero tolerance for harassment in our workplace. We take these accusations very seriously. And these types of allegations are absolutely not consistent with our company values," she said in an email.

The company could not comment on the lawsuit since it is active.

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Like this comment
Posted by really
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2013 at 10:03 am

Since when is it OK for the media to publish the name of a sexual assault victim?

Like this comment
Posted by lynn
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 9, 2013 at 10:49 am

This is not right to publish victims name!

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2013 at 11:17 am

Sexual harassement suits happen all the time. How come only a few ever get attention for the Weekly?

If all of the allegations are true--it's not going to stop many people from frequently Starbucks for coffee.

Like this comment
Posted by know better
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2013 at 11:41 am

Innocent until proven guilty!

Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I can't believe the Weekly/Palo Alto Online is now identifying sexual assault victims? How far have you fallen? This decision of yours will discourage other victims from coming forward. You should think about the consequences of your decisions. I saw that the Daily Post didn't identify the victim in their story this morning. The Weekly/Palo Alto Online should be ashamed!

Like this comment
Posted by Shocked
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I'm shocked you chose to publish the name of the victim and the accused in a civil suit. This is not a criminal preceding as far as I can tell. We're innocent until proven guilty in this country. The Weekly should be careful with Civil suits especially. Anyone can file a civil suit alleging anything.

I could file a civil suit tomorrow saying the Weekly's publisher assaulted me. Would you publish names then? Come on where are your ethics.

[Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Town Square Moderator
online staff of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Town Square Moderator is a registered user.

While the plaintiff's name is publicly available in court documents, Palo Alto Online staff has decided to remove it from this post. Thank you for your comments.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I'm glad you came to your senses this afternoon and removed the victim's name from your story. But what ever possessed you to think that it was a good idea to publish the name of a sex assault victim. You obviously learned about this lawsuit from reading the Daily Post today, but they had the good sense not to publish her name. Palo Alto Online needs to brush up on its journalism ethics.

Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm

So you all think it's fair to name store manager Ted De la Cruz and not name the plaintiff in this civil suit?

I say name them both, or neither, but not just one.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Seriously - you don't make the rules. Many years ago, the media chose not to name the alleged adult victims of sex crimes. Now you're suddenly complaining about that?

Like this comment
Posted by Know better
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Shocked
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 9, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Both names need to be removed, not just the alleged victim. Innocent until proven guilty.

Like this comment
Posted by Weirdo
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Since when does the media publish the name of the victim but NOT the name of the perp???

Like this comment
Posted by unfortunate
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

What do you expect from a conservative paper that supports banning the homeless from Palo Alto? Compassion?

Like this comment
Posted by Horrified!!!
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Sounds like the victim wants exposure because it's against Starbucks. I agree with the previous comments...all names should be removed to protect the innocent until proven guilty. There are two sides to the story. I've lost respect for Palo Alto Online. You should read the article from the Daily Post as no names were mentioned.

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm

This kind of crap goes on in so many ways for people at work.

There is not much you can do about it as a victim except bear it, complain about it or sue Companies say they support their employees, but I think quite honestly they don't know what to do, people tend to do this stuff on their own, so sometimes companies even leverage it.

As a perpetrator you get support from the company and other managers, in fact other workers are brought in sometimes to assist in harassment.

No wonder we don't do much to discourage bullying in schools, after all school is supposed to prepare people for working.

It's three years later and finally this person is doing something about it, better late than never. We should be trying to encourage the best behavior in people, and those who don't get it are the ones who should be in the unemployment line.

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