Deaf news: Starbucks customers in New York claim staff ridiculed and laughed at them

Posted on July 15, 2013

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.”

starbucks logoAlan 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: