Cafe Workers Lose Jobs After Duke VP Gripes About Song

Coffee chain told the employees the university wanted them out
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2018 11:34 AM CDT
Larry Moneta, right, vice president for Student Affairs at Duke University, speaks to members of the media while Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for Public Affairs and Government Relations listens...   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

(Newser) – Uproar at North Carolina's Duke University, where a university vice president walked into the campus location of coffee chain Joe Van Gogh on Friday, heard a rap song with lyrics he found offensive, and set off a chain of events that ended with the coffee shop employees being forced to resign. Indy Week, which has an extensive look at the incident, reports that Larry Moneta confronted employee Britni Brown when he got to the register, complaining about a line in "Get Paid" by Young Dolph that included the f-word. Kevin Simmons, the other employee that day, says Moneta appeared to be "harassing" Brown. Brown apologized and immediately turned off the song. Ten minutes after Moneta left, Brown got a call from the owner of Joe Van Gogh; by Monday, she and Simmons were no longer employed by the coffee chain.

Indy Week obtained an audio recording of their meeting with a Joe Van Gogh HR rep, who gave them the option to resign or be terminated and explained that Moneta had contacted the university's director of dining services who had contacted the coffee chain. "Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day," she said, a point she reiterated more than once. "Joe Van Gogh is contracted by Duke University, so we essentially work for them. And they can shut us down at any point." Simmons noted he had no control over the music, and Brown, who is black, said his forced resignation seemed like a cover-up to "make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color." Moneta sent a statement to the Duke Chronicle and the News & Observer stating that all he did was complain to the dining services director and that how Joe Van Gogh responded to the incident "was solely at their discretion."

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