After supporting Seattle's Gay Pride Parade, sponsoring numerous events for gay-rights groups, and stirring up controversy in 2005 by printing a quote from gay novelist Armistead Maupin on its cups, Starbucks is being sued by two former employees who say they were discriminated against while working for the coffee giant's diversity program—because they're gay. Joseph Hooks and Dorothy Baker worked at Starbucks's corporate headquarters in Seattle. They claim their boss, Starbucks's director of equal opportunity employment, Craig Sawyer, discriminated against and harassed them and pressured them to move elsewhere in the company.

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Through their attorney, David Breskin, both plaintiffs declined to comment for this story. They are seeking unspecified damages.

The court filing alleges that Sawyer told another Starbucks staffer he had "grown up in an environment... where there was prejudice against homosexuals" and that he was "on a personal journey" to overcome his bias.

In the filing, Hooks—a former employee of Washington State representative Adam Smith and currently a staff member in Mayor Greg Nickels's office—claims Sawyer repeatedly made "antihomosexual remarks" and repeatedly referred to him using female pronouns, at one point barring him from a lunch meeting, telling him "just the boys are going to lunch."

Hooks also claims Sawyer pressured him to take a position elsewhere in the company. In May 2007, court documents say, Sawyer sent out an e-mail falsely stating that Hooks had resigned, and Starbucks management packed up his desk.

In her filing, Baker claims after she told Sawyer she was gay, he refused to meet with her and made unreasonable and unfair demands. Baker also alleges Sawyer told her about work he'd done with gay men with AIDS, whom he called "pathetic." Another time, Baker alleges, he told her "how he had been wrestling with one of the guys and had thrown him through the wall." In her filing, Baker says she felt "very threatened" by Sawyer.

Baker was placed on administrative leave last January while the company conducted an investigation. Starbucks reportedly found no evidence of harassment and fired Baker, although she says in court documents that she was denied a copy of the investigation.

Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum says the company does not comment on pending litigation, and the company would not provide a copy of the investigation. recommended

jonah@thestranger.com

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