Former Glam Doll Donuts employees reveal intimidating work environment, discrimination claims

What started as a few shared instances of alleged wrongful termination at Glam Doll Donuts evolved into several employees coming forward to detail their experience working at the iconic shop.

Nina Raemont, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

The Glam Doll Donuts street sign hangs in Northeast Minneapolis on Monday, Nov. 30. (Shannon Doyle)

For many years, Glam Doll Donuts has been a mainstay in the Twin Cities food community. With bright bubblegum pink boxes holding uniquely flavored donuts inside and a website that calls itself “your happy place,” the business has built its reputation on being a quirky and inclusive shop with a late night crowd. But among its employees who uphold the business’s image, it’s another story.

In November, Demaris Johnson, Sariah Jackson and Nadirah McGill, three former Black femme employees, came forward with their experiences at Glam Doll. In a series of Instagram posts, the trio detailed how they were terminated from the shop. Several other former Glam Doll employees have since shared their own stories working at the iconic donut shop, revealing a work environment quite different from the shop’s well-crafted image of an all-around happy place.

In mid-September, Jackson’s employment was terminated by Glam Doll Donuts. Jackson said that she’d been verbally abused by management after calling to ask why she wasn’t being scheduled for work for nearly three weeks.

After Jackson spoke out on Instagram, Johnson and McGill came forward with their experiences.

In late September, the northeast Glam Doll location was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case. Johnson voiced concerns over the upper management’s decision to stay open and was terminated a day afterward for “presenting an attitude of pessimism,” according to Johnson’s Instagram post. Out of everyone who voiced concerns in the store group chat, she was the only one terminated, the post said.

Upon reflection, Teresa Fox, one of the owners of Glam Doll Donuts, said in an interview with WCCO that she should’ve been more thoughtful in her communication and that she overreacted in firing Johnson.

In response to the three former employees’ posts, Glam Doll Donuts released a statement on its Instagram acknowledging its mistakes and citing the “unclear waters of the new COVID world” that has changed business plans and expedited decision-making processes.

“We’ve experienced total failures in communication that would otherwise have been handled differently,” the shop said in its post.

Glam Doll Donuts’ leadership could not be reached for comment.

“I was so excited to be part of this club”

“They can speak on it as much as they want, but they can’t deny the fact that they fired a Black woman for an attitude problem,” Teygaen Hartman, a former Glam Doll employee said. “Try to tell anybody anywhere that a white woman firing a Black woman for an attitude problem shouldn’t be questioned. Because that’s not objective. And we as Black women are day in and day out having to prove to people that we’re not what they believe to be a stereotypical angry Black woman, and it’s things like this that make us angry.”

Hartman began working at Glam Doll Donuts in the fall of 2016 as one of the first employees at the northeast Glam Doll location. They remembered how exciting it was to begin working at such a cool shop in the Twin Cities, but as time went on, their perception of the shop began to shift.

“I realized that the culture of Glam Doll was like, be hot and party and work, like, a little bit, but at the end of the day, be hot. That’ll get you into the club, right? Like, I was so excited to be part of this club,” they said.

The culture, Hartman explained, involved a blending of personal and professional life. Hartman recalled employees partying with each other or going over to the owner’s house for drinks after a shift.

While working there, Hartman said they felt pressured by a manager who encouraged drinking on the job. “It would be very normal to work a shift at 6 a.m. and be drinking by 10 a.m., and it was encouraged by my manager,” they said. The manager Hartman is referring to no longer works there.

Several employees said they felt as though they couldn’t come forward with their concerns about the management since doing so could jeopardize their employment.

“If you do something wrong, I think there was a fear of being tapped out from this whole community of people,” Hartman said. “For a while, that was my sole group of friends, and that was how I held my personal self-worth.”

Stepping on eggshells

While many employees enjoyed their fellow staff members and the experience, several employees described the general environment of the workplace as intimidating and felt as though they were stepping on eggshells around the owners, Fox and Arwyn Birch.

“It would just be like, a couple times a month someone leaving in tears or getting chewed out and being scared to come to work,” Grace Sullivan, a former employee said.

Through her time working at the shop, Sullivan said she experienced fear and insecurity coming into work each day.

“I would have the manager pull me into the office and basically threaten to fire me if I didn’t get my shit together, but they wouldn’t really give examples on what I was doing wrong. And then it would just be me coming to work scared every day and like, fearful of when the girls show up to work,” Sullivan said.

Timothee Smith, a former employee who wished to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns, said a month after a dispute with management that he believed was cleared up, Smith found himself no longer scheduled for shifts.

“You have to treat employees with grace, even if you’re about to fire them, because you never know what situation people are in,” Smith said. “You don’t put Black people in bad situations, without any warning, just, you know, if you’re all inclusive and all that you claim that you are.”

In May, when Glam Doll began to reopen the Northeast shop, it posted on its Instagram that it was hiring baristas for the northeast and Eat Street locations. But the owners neglected to notify their former front-of-house employees at the Eat Street location, many of whom they had laid off months earlier, according to Maggie Barath-Lane, one of the workers laid off at the time.

Barath-Lane saw the post and wrote a text to one of the owners expressing her frustration for not being notified that the shop was hiring. Fox, the recipient of that text, never responded.

“I don’t think I can look at a donut the same way again,” Barath-Lane said.

Former employees said that the shop’s image did not match the employees’ reality of coming to work each day.

“I will say [Glam Doll] is probably a happy place for the owners. It’s probably a happy place for the customers who get to come in and eat donuts and drink Coke or whatever,” Smith said. “But for the employees? No. It’s not a happy place.”