Starbucks employees at two stores in New York City have been accused of disability discrimination.
It is claimed that Starbucks employees mocked Deaf customers and refused to serve them. Eric Baum, a lawyer representing 12 Deaf plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the popular coffee giants, said Deaf customers “were ridiculed, laughed at and told they had to leave Starbucks.”
Alan Roth, a Deaf customer, said a barista laughed at him when he made an order, telling him he sounded funny and that the barista laughed hysterically every time he repeated himself.
When Mr Roth demanded to speak to her manager, the employee started screaming obscenities at him and had to be restrained by her colleagues. Another employee told Roth to leave the shop and never come back. Mr Roth said he had “never before been so blatantly and maliciously been discriminated against.”
The lawsuit also alleged that Starbucks workers at another branch forced a Deaf social group to leave. Police officers were called after a report of a disturbance but they ended up apologising to the Deaf group members, and reprimanded Starbucks employees. After the incident, an employee banned the group from the store.
Mr Baum said many of his Deaf clients complained to Starbucks and were given an apology and an offer of a gift card. Mr Baum told the New York Daily News that there was no mention of any disciplinary action being taken.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified money damages, a court order banning discrimination against Deaf customers and better Deaf awareness training for Starbucks staff.
A Starbucks representative has issued a statement: “Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks is unacceptable, and we are investigating these claims. Starbucks is a leader in supporting policies that promote equality, inclusion and diversity. Customer experience is of utmost importance and we strive to provide a welcoming environment for all.”
Image – 4028mdk09 via Wikimedia Commons
By Paul Harrison, the Limping Chicken’s News Reporter. Paul is a freelance journalist, currently living and working in London. When not at his desk writing or tweeting, he can be found at a coffee shop or Loftus Road/The Stoop/Celtic Park (delete as applicable) mumbling insults at the referee or sloppy passing. Follow him on Twitter as @paulbharrison
Check out our supporters here.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out about 5 funny ways to use captions!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people