PHILADELPHIA – In a recently filed lawsuit, a Philadelphia coffee barista claims he was unlawfully fired when he refused to participate in a drug-dealing operation he says was conducted on his employer's premises.
Antoine Wilson filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on May 30 against Quaker City Coffee Company, LLC, Bodhi Limited, LLC, Christian Dennis and Bobby Logue, all of Philadelphia.
Wilson states he was hired by defendant Dennis, whom he had known prior to his employment, in early September 2017 and worked for Bodhi Limited and Quaker City Coffee Company for about nine months.
Wilson adds Dennis, a minority-owner and high-level manager of both coffee shops, is an ex-convict who served prison time for drug dealing – and that he himself had also been convicted and served prison time for drug dealing, before later being released in February 2016, enrolling and matriculating in college and working full-time, putting his prior life behind him.
“The express goal publicized by defendants in interviews, literature and online publications was to operate defendants Bodhi Limited and Quaker City Coffee Company for altruistic purposes in helping ex-convicts reintegrate into the workplace (and community as a whole). To that end, defendants have and continue to hire numerous individuals with criminal convictions (or who were recently incarcerated),” the suit states.
“Defendant Dennis has used his recruitment of ex-convicts to further his criminal enterprise and continued drug-dealing notwithstanding his lengthy criminal history and public (business-related) interviews, given that he put such a life behind him. In other words, he attempted to exploit his position of power and business ownership with access to ex-convicts who would likely do his criminal bidding.”
As of December 2017, Wilson says he was performing well at his barista job, something recognized in a text message from Bodhi Limited and Quaker City Coffee Company majority owner and defendant Logue, who commended him for his efforts and implied Wilson would be promoted into a greater role in 2018.
At the start of the new year, Wilson says his employment experience changed in a negative way, when he became aware of Dennis’s drug-dealing operation – one which he says transpired on the premises of both coffee shops and involved other staff members, who served as both dealers and customers. In addition, Wilson says drug use occurred on site and co-owner Dennis attempted to actively recruit him into selling drugs.
By March 2018, Wilson says his opposition to drug use and sales in the workplace and his refusal to participate in same had become very vocal, leading to dissention with Dennis, greater scrutiny of his work and a reduction in his work hours. Finally, on May 25, Wilson states he learned of his firing through a written letter, which claimed he was let go “via layoff…due to an organizational restructure.”
“Plaintiff’s termination from employment was not due to a ‘layoff’ or ‘lack of work’ as alleged by defendant, as: (1) Plaintiff could have easily worked in another location of defendant as he had in the past; (2) Defendants had hired new staff in or around the time of plaintiff’s termination from employment; (3) Business was not slower; and (4) Defendants retained known problematic employees, including those literally doing drugs in the workplace, instead of applying neutral criteria in keeping a solid-performing employee like plaintiff. Plaintiff’s termination was retaliatory and pre-textual,” the suit says.
For wrongful termination, the plaintiff is seeking the following: An order that the defendants are to adhere to an anti-retaliation policy; An award of back pay, front pay, salary, pay increases, bonuses, insurance, benefits, training, promotions, reinstatement and seniority; Any and all penalties allowed by state or common law; actual damages and damages for pain, suffering and humiliation; punitive damages for the defendants’ alleged willful, deliberate, malicious and outrageous conduct; other equitable and legal relief as the Court deems just, proper and appropriate; costs and expenses of the action, reasonable attorney’s fees, if permitted by applicable law, and a trial by jury.
The plaintiff is represented by Ari R. Karpf, Julia W. Clark, Atusa Shirasb and David N. Korsen of Karpf Karpf Cerutti, in Bensalem.
The defendants are represented by Brendan D. Hennessy of Hennessy Law, in Malvern.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180503233
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org