What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Former employee of Counter Culture Coffee says microaggressions 'swept under the rug for years'

Posted June 10, 2020 5:18 p.m. EDT
Updated June 10, 2020 5:35 p.m. EDT

A former employee of Durham-based Counter Culture Coffee alleges she was the target of racist and sexist comments during her time there, and that leadership did nothing about it.

Counter Culture has its headquarters here in Durham but has training centers all over the country.

D’Onna Stubblefield was an educator in Philadelphia where she managed wholesale accounts in the region and taught employees.

She says a sales representative there made racist and sexist comments toward her. Recent protests across the country prompted her to speak about her personal experience.

"It’s not just about somebody putting their knee on your neck," she said. "A lot of these places put their knee on your neck in subliminal ways."

Stubblefield says she worked at Counter Culture in Philadelphia from 2016 to 2018.

"Every day, there was something said or done," she said. "There were times where I was told that I shouldn’t have this job, and I wasn’t good enough, and nobody wanted me here."

She says she complained to multiple managers, multiple times.

"It was always swept under the rug. I was always placated with empty platitudes, but no action was ever taken," she said.

Stubblefield shared part of her story on Instagram, where it has received a lot of attention.

Counter Culture then shared a statement on Instagram, writing, in part: “It is clear that Counter Culture has contributed to the very things that we’ve long told ourselves we stand against. We are taking immediate action …”

It also posted a list of “next steps” the company will be taking, including providing anti-bias training to all employees, reopening past claims of discrimination and harassment, and creating a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Specialist” position.

Stubblefield says the CEO did reach out to her directly, but she was not satisfied with his apology, saying it didn’t go far enough.

"A black person had to die for me to get an apology, and that’s been the hardest pill to swallow," she said.

Brett Smith, co-founder and president of Counter Culture, issued this statement:

"We have taken immediate, meaningful action regarding the concerns that have been raised about our company.

"We have an opportunity to make improvements in our culture; improvements that will elevate the voices of our employees, improvements that will celebrate the diversity of our current and future staff, improvements that come from the critical consciousness-raising that’s happening at Counter Culture and around the country. We are looking with fresh eyes to ensure we’re resolving prior issues, and we’re focusing on critical immediate steps, as well as our longer term future.

"We have engaged a third-party investigator to review current and past claims, and we will take appropriate and immediate actions. We have partnered with a Diversity & Inclusion advisor to audit our business and begin training and education for our staff. We will hold moderated Town Hall meetings to continue these conversations with our team. These are the first steps."

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