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Starbucks Sued for Discrimination against Deaf Employee

World’s largest coffee chain accused of denying reasonable accommodations

Laura Roberts, a former employee at an Arizona Starbucks location recently filed a lawsuit against the coffee giant alleging discrimination and retaliatory termination. The suit, which names the Starbucks Coffee Company as the defendant, claims that the company discriminated against Ms. Roberts for being deaf. She claims that she was not provided with the reasonable accommodations needed to help her execute her job duties and was terminated in retaliation for filing a complaint against the company. The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for Ms. Roberts’ lost wages, the reinstatement of her position and an injunction preventing Starbucks from further discrimination against deaf and disabled employees.

Is Starbucks liable?

This is an interesting situation to say the least, involving two key parts. First, the question of whether or not Ms. Roberts was denied reasonable accommodations. Second, whether or not she was terminated in retaliation for reporting her mistreatment.

Since the 1990 signing of Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to make a reasonable effort to aid disabled employees in the execution of their duties. Reasonable accommodations range from specialized desks to dedicated support staff. In short, a reasonable accommodation may be any equipment or support a disabled individual may need to get their job done, without an undue financial or logistical imposition on the employer.

In this case, a reasonable accommodation may include a sign language interpreter and specialized equipment, all things the plaintiff claims Starbucks refused to provide during her seven years with the company. Additionally, state and federal laws bar employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting an employment law issue or illegal actions.

If either assertion – that Ms. Roberts was denied accommodations or that she was fired for speaking up – is true, Starbucks may be liable for monetary and punitive damages. A judge may also order Ms. Roberts reinstated to her position with any increase in wage or title that she would have earned had the termination never occurred.

Deaf discrimination lawsuits nothing new for Starbucks

Unfortunately, Ms. Roberts may not be the lone victim of Starbucks’ discriminatory actions against deaf employees and customers. In recent years, Starbucks has been the target of several lawsuits involving mistreatment of deaf individuals, including cases involving assault, tampering with drinks and persistent mocking.

While it is certainly true that Starbucks has yet to be proven liable for Ms. Roberts’ case, or many of the other related lawsuits, the frequency of legal action involving the deaf community is troubling.

Don’t wait to discuss your discrimination concerns with a New York employment lawyer

If you feel that you have become the victim of discrimination in the workplace, whether due to a disability or any other factor, it is important to discuss your concerns with an attorney. Without taking action, your mistreatment may continue, and others like you may experience similar discriminatory treatment. At Hepworth, Gershbaum & Roth, our New York employment law attorneys take an aggressive stance against mistreatment in the workplace. We fight to help discrimination victims recover the justice they are entitled to. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your disability discrimination concerns with one of our New York employment lawyers, contact us online or call 212-545-1199.





Contact an employment law attorney in New York today for a free initial consultation and determine whether you have a case. For a free initial consultation, you can contact us online or by phone.

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