Michael Harris, 20, claims to have been fired by Starbucks following the incident in what his attorney describes as him “defending” himself.
Mr Harris was working the drive-thru at a Starbucks in St. Louis when two masked men entered the building and told everyone to get to the ground, the barista told the outlet.
The incident, which occurred on 17 December, was an attempt to rob the store, according to a press release from Mr Harris’ attorney, Ryan Krupp.
The barista cooperated with the men’s demands, as was his training, according to Mr Krupp. He tried to open the cash register but did not have managerial access to the cash; he told the outlet.
That is when one of the men allegedly struck Mr Harris, using a gun hit him on the back of the head.
“At that point, I thought he was going to shoot me,” Mr Harris told The New York Post.
However, his co-worker noticed something suspicious about the gun after he saw a bit of the firearm and broke off, leading him to think the gun could be a fake.
His attorney said that Mr Harris acted when he “realised he was at a stage which meant he either needed to intervene or risk himself or others being killed.”
Mr Harris, and his co-worker, named Devin Jones-Ransom by Mr Harris’ attorney, reportedly “defended themselves” against two alleged robbers, “eventually stopping them in their tracks and leading to the arrest of both perpetrators,” Mr Krupp’s statement read.
The two employees managed to subdue one of them until the police arrived, while the other took off but was found by police a short time later, local outlet Riverfront Times reported.
The two alleged attempted robbers have been named as Joshua Noe and Marquise Porter-Doyle and have both been arrested on robbery and other charges.
While local news lauded the two baristas as heroes, the pair are reported to have lost their Starbucks jobs.
“I got a call a few weeks later,” Mr Harris said to The New York Post.
“Once the media died down. They told me they were terminating me. I was surprised. I was distraught. I was confused.”
His attorney told the outlet that his client was trying to look out for his safety in the frightening situation.
“When the robbers came in, my client complied and tried to open the cash register when he was struck in the head by one of the gunmen,” Mr Krupp said to The New York Post. “At that point you’re in a position to defend yourself.”
Mr Krupp also added in his statement that the two workers were fired without explanation on what policy, if any, they violated.
In a statement to The Independent regarding the incident, a spokesperson for Starbucks said they were “deeply disturbed to learn of this frightening incident.”
“Partner safety is at the core of how we operate in our stores, and we are so grateful that our partners and customers did not come to greater harm in this situation, they added.
“In situations like this, our training and protocols guide our partners to comply and de-escalate, not just for their safety but for the safety of all in the store.”
In a statement to The Independent, Mr Krupp spoke about legal action they are taking against the beverage giant.
“Mr. Harris did the right thing. Starbucks cannot put their corporate liability policy above Mr. Harris’s human rights,” he said.
“We are filing a number of human rights and discrimination charges against Starbucks,” he added. “Although Starbucks terminated Michael from a position of power, they will be on an equal playing field with Michael when they see the jury in this case.”