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Starbucks sued for allegedly discriminating against deaf staff

A long-time employee was fired from Starbucks after being denied accommodations. Now, she’s is filing a lawsuit. And she wants her job back.

starbucks

starbucks

Shame on you, Starbucks

Having a product that is in demand is vital, but maintaining quality help is the very bedrock of successful companies. A business, even the most reputable one, cannot make an impact without respectable, pleasant and reliable employees.

bar
Regulars get used to seeing helpful, friendly faces and before you know it, instead of merely stopping by a coffee shop to grab your favorite cup of joe, a connection is made. Patrons become invested in the success of the company because they’re invested in the relationships they’ve fostered with the staff.
And so the cycle begins.

This is the type of emotional correlation that breeds success, but these connections can only occur when employees are valued and supplied the proper modifications at work.

With that being said, shame on you, Starbucks.

Denied accommodations

Obviously, most of the adult world couldn’t function without their java, but that doesn’t give companies like Starbucks a pass on providing disabled employees proper accommodations.

Laura Roberts, a Starbucks employee for seven years, has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks. She claims that the store fired her in retaliation after she repeatedly asked for ASL accommodates. Roberts, who has been deaf since infancy, requested interpreters during staff and training meetings on various occasions.
She can read, and during her employment relied on a printed schedule for her hours. She also utilized her ability to lip-read in order to serve customers. After a managerial transition, she was denied a printed schedule, and required to read her schedule from a posted list. Thus, limiting her ability to understand the hours she was required to work.

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New tattoo policy, plus a twist ending

The company complied with her ASL request during a meeting where she was informed of a new policy, which prohibited visible tattoos on the hands and wrists. Roberts was informed that the tattoos must be removed. She tried to comply, but couldn’t afford the hefty bills associated with laser removal.
After missing and being late for several shifts because of the new schedule procedure, she was asked to attend another meeting in January. For only the second time in her seven years of employment, an ASL interpreter was provided.

During the meeting, she was dismissed from the company, and shortly thereafter, the tattoo policy was withdrawn.

Firing back

Roberts is suing the company under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She is claiming retaliation, discrimination and failure to provide adequate accommodations.

Believe it or not, she’s seeking not only compensatory and punitive damages, but she also wants her job back with proper adaptations.

Roberts is fervent about ending discrimination against other disabled employees. Since announcing the lawsuit, she has also requested an injunction against the company.

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The bottom line

The companies that value their employees are usually the kind that consumers want to frequent. When employees are treated well the overall moral is high, workers complete their tasks happily and customer retention is high. Maintaining a positive reputation and a reliable staff is contingent on a business’ ability to treat their workers with respect.

Bottom line, a successful business supports their employees, and the workplace hierarchy is responsible for making certain that this support happens.

#Starbucks

Written By

Staff writer, Ashley Lombardo, earned her B.S. in journalism from The University of Florida and has used her skills to report on everything from the economy to productivity. She is well-known for her tremendously positive presence, and when she's not trying to save the world she indulges in red wine, friends, fitness, books, bubble baths, shoes, family and love.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John

    October 28, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I don’t think a deaf barista could have the type of meaningful interactions with customers that is essential to the Starbucks brand. They should have fired her for that.

    Im skeptical that she could lip read customers but not the person speaking in a meeting? What’s the difference? Plus, did anybody else have a problem reading their schedule?

    The real person who should have been fired though was the manager who hired in the first place and opened up this can of worms.

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