Two baristas at a Duke University coffee shop were fired for playing rap music that contained "offensive" lyrics and prompted a school official's complaint.
Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons were working at the campus location of Joe Van Gogh when Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta came into the establishment. When he overheard the song "Get Paid" by Young Dolph playing on Spotify, which includes the lyrics “Get paid, young n----, get paid” and “I f----d her so good,” he complained to Brown about the “inappropriate” song, Indy Week reports.
Brown reportedly apologized and turned off the music then offered Moneta a muffin on the house, though he insisted on paying. Simmons, who overheard the exchange between Brown and Moneta, said Moneta was “verbally harassing” his co-worker.
Shortly after Moneta left the shop, the baristas received a phone call from the store owner, who said Executive Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey had called him about the music.
On Monday morning, Brown and Simmons were called into a meeting with someone from HR who told them they could either resign or be fired, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by Indy Week.
“We had gotten a call from Robert Coffey of Duke saying that the VP of the university had come into the shop and that there was vulgar music playing,” the HR rep, Amanda Wiley said on the recording. “Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day.”
Moneta told The Chronicle in an email that while he did complain about the music, he never ordered the employees be fired.
"The employees who chose to play the song in a business establishment on the Duke campus made a poor decision which was conveyed to the JVG management," Moneta wrote. "How they responded to the employees’ behavior was solely at their discretion."
"To those who feel that I’ve flipped on my positions on free expression, I say this. The artist who wrote, recorded and performed the music is absolutely entitled to do so, however offensive I might find the lyrics.”
"There are other options besides being terminated,” Brown said in the meeting with HR, according to Indy Week. “We could have just been moved to another shop. But Duke came in and took our livelihood.”
Editor's Note: After this story was published, Robbie Roberts, owner of the Joe Van Gogh coffee shop, issued the following statement to Fox News:
"Joe Van Gogh apologizes to our employees, customers and community for how we handled a situation involving our Duke University store. As you have read, it is true that Joe Van Gogh is a contractor to Duke. We attempted to understand Duke’s position in this case, but we should have taken a different approach in making personnel decisions. As the owner of the business, I take full responsibility for Joe Van Gogh’s actions. I apologize to all of the people directly involved and those who have been touched or offended, of which there are many. We are taking steps to remedy this matter, but all company personnel issues are private and will remain private. Again, my truly sincere apologies."
Duke University responded to Roberts' statement: "We appreciate Mr. Roberts’ statement and his commitment to remedy the matter with the individuals involved, and regret the pain this incident caused to those who look to Duke to uphold the highest values of fairness and equity to all members of our community."