A Duke Vice President Got Two Baristas Fired For Listening To Young Dolph

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

A Duke Vice President Got Two Baristas Fired For Listening To Young Dolph

Paras Griffin/Getty Images

This week, Joe Van Gogh, a local coffeehouse chain, fired two employees who worked at its Duke University location. The reason: The wrong person had walked into the café and heard the wrong song. IndyWeek reports that Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president for student affairs, objected to the Young Dolph song that was playing in the shop, and he called the coffee chain’s bosses to demand that they fire the two workers who were on duty at the time.

The two employees who were working at the time had generally listened to Spotify-curated playlists while working. And when Moneta walked in, the song playing was Young Dolph’s “Get Paid,” a song with Dolph chanting, “Get paid, young nigga” on the hook.

Britni Brown, the black woman who was working the register that day, said that Moneta told her that the lyrics were inappropriate. She turned the music off, apologized, and attempted to give Moneta his order for free. Kevin Simmons, the white man who was making drinks at the time, says that he saw Moneta “verbally harassing” Brown. (Moneta, the article points out, has resisted efforts to restrict hate speech on campus.)

Within 10 minutes Joe Van Gogh’s owner called the shop to ask about the incident. And on Monday, the coffee shop called in both Brown and Simmons, asking them to resign. (The company offered them severance pay and said that they could count on good referrals.) Joe Van Gogh’s HR person says that Duke “instructed” the shop to fire both employees. Brown thinks that Simmons, who was not controlling the playlist, was fired just so that her firing would not look discriminatory. (Duke claims that the firing was entirely the decision of the coffee shop.)

This should go without saying, but if you’ve ever tried to get a service-industry employee fired, for any reason short of actual assault, you are an absolute irredeemable asshole.

UPDATE: Young Dolph has commented on the situation…

UPDATE 5/11: Joe Van Gogh has cut ties with Duke and offered to rehire the fired baristas or help find them new jobs. Company owner Robbie Roberts released this statement:

Effective immediately, I have decided to cut my company’s ties with Duke University. I believe it’s the right thing to do to preserve Joe Van Gogh’s brand independence without conditions. I have extended jobs to our entire team at our Duke on-campus store, either at one of our off-campus locations or at our production offices. And, I have reached out to our two baristas who were provided severance so that they may either re-join Joe Van Gogh or secure employment elsewhere if they like.

During the past several days, I have reflected on our core values and what I want to embrace and advocate as a small business owner. Joe Van Gogh has always been about bringing people together, not driving them apart. We are open to all people and we value people over our profits. We always have. For years, we have nurtured these values to the communities we serve, specifically through the strengths and talents of our staff of baristas.

I want to thank Joe Van Gogh employees and customers and everyone who has shared their candor with me during this period. I am grateful to live in a society where all voices — positive or not — can be heard and met with understanding. I hope that we can become a more tolerant society by working through difficulties such as this one.

UPDATE 5/12: Young Dolph flew the two baristas to his performance at Miami’s Rolling Loud festival last night, brought them onstage, and gave them each $20k before doing “Get Paid.” “I know for the fact that the VP at that school get money, but he don’t get money like Dolph,” the rapper said. “So until y’all get a new job, I got $20,000 for y’all right now.”


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