The manager of a Starbucks coffee shop in Dupont Circle who is accused in a discrimination complaint of hurling anti-gay slurs at two gay male customers in May 2014 was transferred to that store in 2011 after another customer accused him of calling him a “faggot” at the Starbucks at 16th and U streets, N.W.
The customer, who spoke on condition that he not be identified, told the Washington Blade that Starbucks manager Christian Lokossou called him a “faggot” for no apparent reason when he was ordering coffee at the Starbucks store at 1600 U St., N.W., at some time in 2011.
“I took it to the regional manager,” said the customer, who identified himself as being straight. “I said I was a daily customer and I was uncomfortable going back. It’s not a nice word, and I demanded they take action.”
According to the customer, another employee of the U Street Starbucks told him a short time later that Lokossou had been transferred to another store. The complaint filed against him last year indicates he was transferred to the Dupont North Starbucks at 1700 Connecticut Ave., N.W.
The D.C. Office of Human Rights is currently investigating that complaint, which was filed last year by D.C. resident Michael Campbell. Campbell charges that Lokossou subjected him and his boyfriend, Angel Rivera, to a frightening confrontation in May 2014 in which Lokossou allegedly hurled anti-gay and racial slurs at them.
The complaint says Lokossou allegedly followed the two outside the Starbucks, located at Connecticut Avenue and R Street, N.W., into an outdoor seating area after words were exchanged when Campbell and Rivera placed their order at the counter in the store.
“You are fucking with the wrong one and I will break your neck you little fag, and I will break your spic boyfriend’s neck as well,” the complaint quotes Lokossou as saying after he followed the two outside the store.
The complaint charges that Lokossou also bumped into Campbell with his shoulder and chest before returning to the store as other store employees shouted at him to come back to the store.
A spokesperson for Starbucks told the Blade the company was investigating Campbell’s complaint but could not comment on specific details involving pending litigation.
“At Starbucks we want all of our customers to have a positive experience,” said spokesperson Laurel Harper. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination and take this type of accusation seriously,” she said in an email to the Blade.
In a related development, Rivera said he filed a separate complaint against Starbucks with the Office of Human Rights this week in connection with the same May 2014 incident involving Lokossou. He said that since he, too, was victimized by Lokossou’s actions he wanted to file his own complaint.
Both complaints allege that due to Lokossou’s actions, Starbucks violated the D.C. Human Rights Act’s provision banning discrimination by a place of public accommodation based on sexual orientation and race.
As part of a required effort to settle discrimination complaints, Campbell said he entered into conciliation negotiations with Starbucks that were supervised by an official with the OHR. He said the conciliation effort failed after Starbucks refused to accept any of his proposed remedies, including a request that Lokossou be required to undergo counseling or diversity training to help him deal with minorities.
Campbell said OHR officials told him the office was now conducting a full investigation into the incident.
OHR never comments on cases until it makes a determination of probable cause that discrimination has occurred. If such a finding is made OHR then refers the case to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which holds an evidentiary hearing and makes a final decision on whether discrimination occurred.
News about Lokossou’s alleged anti-gay comment to the customer at the 16th and U St., N.W., Starbucks surfaced when the customer saw a Facebook posting by Campbell about Lokossou’s altercation with Campbell that included a link to the Blade’s initial story about the incident published on April 9.