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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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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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Business News

Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns

(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.

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Package delivery people holding deliveries. Refund instead of returns are common now.

The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.

When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”

Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.

For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.

Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.

But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.

While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.

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Google workers have formed company’s first labor union

(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.

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Google complex with human sized chessboard, where a labor union has been formed.

On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.

The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.

“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.

AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.

In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.

So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.

Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.

“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.

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Business News

Ticketmaster caught red-handed hacking, hit with major fines

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after hacking into a competitor’s network specifically to sabotage.

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Person open on hacking computer screen, typing on keyboard.

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after admitting to hacking into a competitor’s network and scheming to “choke off” the ticket seller company and “cut [victim company] off at the knees”.

Ticketmaster admitted hiring former employee, Stephen Mead, from startup rival CrowdSurge (which merged with Songkick) in 2013. In 2012, Mead signed a separation agreement to keep his previous company’s information confidential. When he joined Live Nation, Mead provided that confidential information to the former head of the Artist Services division, Zeeshan Zaidi, and other Ticketmaster employees. The hacking information shared with the company included usernames, passwords, data analytics, and other insider secrets.

“When employees walk out of one company and into another, it’s illegal for them to take proprietary information with them. Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law. This investigation is a perfect example of why these laws exist – to protect consumers from being cheated in what should be a fair market place,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

In January 2014, Mead gave a Ticketmaster executive multiple sets of login information to Toolboxes, the competitor’s password-protected app that provides real-time data about tickets sold through the company. Later, at an Artists Services Summit, Mead logged into a Toolbox and demonstrated the product to Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees. Information collected from the Toolboxes were used to “benchmark” Ticketmaster’s offerings against the competitor.

“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme in a statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.”

The hacking violations were first reported in 2017 when CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations. A spokesperson told The Verge, “Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light. Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

To resolve the case, Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal penalty, create a compliance and ethics program, and report to the United States Attorney’s Office annually during a three-year term. If the agreement is breached, Ticketmaster will be charged with: “One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of computer intrusion for commercial advantage, one count of computer intrusion in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.”

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