Two baristas at a Duke University coffee shop were asked to resign from their positions on Monday after a school official complained about rap music played at the location — and allegedly called for their termination, according to reports.
Britni Brown and Kevin Simmons were working at Joe Van Gogh in Durham, North Carolina, on Friday when Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president of student affairs, entered and ordered, Indy Week reported. Young Dolph’s 2016 rap song “Get Paid” was playing over the speaker, and Moneta immediately approached Brown at the register to complain, according to the site.
“Harassing is definitely the word I would use,” Simmons claimed to Indy Week. “He was verbally harassing her.”
Brown immediately turned off the song — which features numerous expletives — and apologized repeatedly, but the damage had already been done, Indy Week reported. About 10 minutes later, Brown reportedly received a call from the shop’s owner, saying that Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services, had called about the rap song, according to the outlet.
In a Monday meeting with Amanda Wiley, of Joe Van Gogh’s human resources department, Brown and Simmons were let go. “Duke University has instructed us to terminate the employees that were working that day,” Wiley said, according to Indy Week.
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Wiley offered the pair the option to resign, the outlet reported. It is unclear whether Brown and Simmons took the offer.
Neither Moneta nor Coffey immediately responded to a request for comment from PEOPLE. Joe Van Gogh also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, in an email statement to The Duke Chronicle, Moneta said the decision to terminate the employees’ contracts was made by the coffee shop’s management. He said he was shocked to hear lyrics that he “found quite inappropriate for a working environment that serves children among others.”
“I expressed my objections to the staff with whom I’ve always had a cordial relationship. I insisted on paying for my purchase and left the store,” he continued in the statement. “I then contacted the director of Duke Dining to express my concerns and that was the end of my involvement.”
Brown and other employees at the coffee shop have told Indy Week that they were not aware of any store policies regarding music. Managers and other employees at the shop told Indy Week that neither Brown nor Simmons had any record of workplace misconduct.
In the past, Moneta has opposed efforts to restrict hate speech. Brown, a black woman, suggested to Wiley that her termination was partially motivated by her race, according to Indy Week. She said that firing Simmons, a white man, despite his lack of involvement, was simply an effort to hide any discrimination.
“For to be fired because of this, it is not fair,” Brown told Wiley. “I feel like you guys were trying to cover it up as to make it not look discriminatory for firing a person of color.”