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Starbucks Accused of Discriminating Against Deaf Patrons
A group of 16 frequent customers of Starbucks filed a lawsuit against the purveyor of “the world’s finest coffee.” The group alleges that they were discriminated against by workers at two Starbucks in New York City. According to the filed suit, the incidents refer to a situation where Starbucks employees refused to serve deaf patrons, and mocked the way the deaf customers spoke and even attempted to eject them from the premises.
Alan Roth recounts what happened to him personally. He alleges that a Starbucks employee laughed at him repeatedly and told him that he sounded funny when he was trying to place an order.
“Mr. Roth was shocked and humiliated and asked the Starbucks employee if she had a problem with him being deaf,” reads a court document acquired by Huffington Post. According to the document, the employee allegedly “then proceeded to go around the counter and started screaming obscenities in plaintiff’s face and was then pulled away by other Starbucks staff.” Starbucks employees then allegedly told Roth to leave and never to return.
The giant coffee company’s representative commented, “Starbucks is still looking into the claims. Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable at Starbucks.” An attorney representing the group, Eric Baum said that his clients want to see Starbucks change their corporate culture and seek to overcome any discriminatory tendencies. He hopes that the company can “create policies, procedures and trainings” to help employees assist and serve deaf patrons. Sensitivity training may also be something the company can look into, according to the Huffington Post.
Starbucks is a global coffee company and coffeehouse chain. They are the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 20,891 stores in 62 countries including 13,279 in the United States 1,324 in Canada, 989 in Japan, 851 in China and 806 in the UK. Their 2012 net income this year is $1.3B, and their stock price is at $69.6, which is double what it was ten years ago.
The plaintiffs will seek punitive damages. The groups’ attorney, Eric Baum, said that Starbucks hasn’t really been in contact with him regarding their own investigation into the matter. Attorney Baum commented, “Ideally, someone independently should investigate these allegations and determine what steps need to be taken,” he said. Baum’s firm, Eisenberg & Baum, handles a large volume of cases centered on the rights of the deaf and partially deaf. Finally, Baum made the statement that “we are seeking that all customers be treated equally.” Equal treatment and freedom from discrimination is a right guaranteed under the constitution.