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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

Bay Area co-living startup strands hundreds of renters at dire time

(BUSINESS NEWS) They’re blaming COVID for failing as a co-living space, but it looks like trouble was well established even before now.

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Person packed a bag and walking away from co-living space.

Over the last few years, “co-living” startups have become increasingly common in tech-rich cities like San Francisco. These companies lease large houses, then rent individual bedrooms for as much as $2,000 per month in hopes of attracting the young professionals who make up the tech industry. Many offer food, cleaning services, group activities, and hotel-quality accommodations to do so.

But the true value in co-living companies lies in their role as a third party: Smoothing over relations, providing hassle free income to homeowners and improved accountability to tenants… in theory, anyway. The reality has proved the opposite can just as easily be true.

In a September company email, Bay Area co-living startup HubHaus released a statement that claimed they were “unable to pay October rent” on their leased properties. Hubhaus also claimed to have “no funds available to pay any amounts that may be owed landlords, tenants, trade creditors, or contractors.”

This left hundreds of SF Bay Area renters scrambling to arrange shelter with little notice, with the start of a second major COVID-19 outbreak on the horizon.

HubHaus exhibited plenty of red flags leading up to this revelation. Employees complained of insufficient or late payment. The company stopped paying utilities during the spring, and they quietly discontinued cleaning services while tenants continued to pay for them.

Businesses like HubHaus charge prices that could rent a private home in most of the rest of the country, in exchange for a room in a house of 10 or more people. PodShare is a similar example: Another Bay Area-based co-living startup, whose offerings include “$1,200 bunk beds” in a shared, hostel-like environment.

As a former Bay Area resident, it’s hard not to be angry about these stories. But they have been the unfortunate reality since long before the pandemic. Many urbanites across the country cannot afford to opt out of a shared living situation, and these business models only exacerbate the race to the bottom of city living standards.

HubHaus capitalized on this situation and took advantage of their tenants, who were simply looking for an affordable place to live in a market where that’s increasingly hard to find.

They’ve tried to place the blame for their failure on COVID-19 — but all signs seem to indicate that they had it coming.

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Business News

Las Vegas’ largest dispensary gets massive Infinity Wall expansion

(BUSINESS NEWS) Las Vegas’s largest dispensary is getting a big, expensive makeover, thriving while other brick-and-mortar shops are struggling.

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Planet 13, Las Vegas's largest dispensary, set to get a huge expansion.

Have you ever heard of an Infinity Wall? If I were you, I’d check it out right now because it’s utterly mesmerizing.

An 80-foot version of this wall is just one of the new features that Planet 13 (or The Company) announced it will be implementing in Las Vegas’ largest dispensary, The SuperStore, this past Monday. In addition to the futuristic entertainment feature (I honestly can’t get over that thing), they will be doubling the sales floor and expanding the dispensary to ~23,000 sq. ft. For reference, the entire Planet 13 SuperStore complex is 112,000 sq.ft.

Why expand an already massive dispensary during a pandemic, when most brick and mortar stores are suffering? Well, according to Larry Scheffler, Co-CEO of Planet 13, The Superstore is actually thriving beyond belief.

“We are achieving record sales even with Las Vegas at ~50% tourist occupancy. As Las Vegas returns to normal and this industry continues to grow, we anticipate that this will be first of many expansions we will undertake to keep up with demand.”

The expansion adds 40 points of sale to uphold the outstanding customer service reputation Planet 13 has. If you do have to wait, you have a state-of-the-art entertainment system to enjoy. It’s win-win for any and all visitors.

The CapEx cost of the expansion between is $1.5 – $2.5 million. The project is expected come to completion by the end of Q1 2021.

Las Vegas has become a sort of cannabis mecca. After all, it’s home to MJBizCon, the industry’s largest networking event attended by thousands from around the world. And the popularity and overall acceptance makes it an easy choice for any cannabis aficionados. The SuperStore, like most things in Las Vegas, is huge, glamorous, and caters to tourists.

I have no doubt that when the city bounces back from the pandemic, this new-and-improved dispensary will be a must-visit destination.

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Business News

The future of work from home will be a hybrid, says Google CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google is looking to adapt a more flexible, long-term hybrid work model for their employees, which includes partially working from home and partially being on-site.

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Work from home woman at a laptop.

Google, the world’s largest search engine company (yes I know they do other things), is positing that the corporate office will look completely different post-COVID-19.

In September Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai said that the organization was making changes to its offices that would better support employees in the future. This includes “reconfiguring” office spaces to accommodate “on-sites”, days when employees who regularly work from home will come into the workplace. The move comes after Google was one of the first major tech companies to announce that employees could possibly work from home through next summer.

“I see the future as definitely being more flexible,” Pichai said during a video interview for Time 100, “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”

It was reported that Google’s decision to work remotely into mid-2021 was originally in part to help employees whose children might be learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Pichai said that several factors went into the decision, stating that improving productivity was a major concern.

“Early on as this started, I realized it was going to be a period of tremendous uncertainty, so we wanted to lean in and give certainty where we could,” Pichai said. “The reason we made the decision to do work from home until mid of next year is we realized people were trying hard to plan… and it was affecting productivity.”

Pichai also mentioned that the decision would help the firm embrace the reality that remote working wasn’t going anywhere once things returned to normal. A recent survey at Google found that 62% of employees felt they only need to be in the office on occasion, while 20% felt they didn’t need to be in the office whatsoever. While the work from home trend had already been growing over the past several years, the pandemic accelerated that movement greatly.

With housing costs surging in the San Francisco area, where Google headquarters resides, many employees have been forced to move outside of the city to afford a mortgage. This caused many to commute long hours into the office, something Pichai realized was a problem.

“It’s always made me wonder, when I see people commuting two hours and away from their families and friends, on a Friday, you realize they can’t have plans,” Pichai said. “So I think we can do better.”

It’s too early to tell whether or not Pichai’s vision of a “hybrid model” will be adopted by other companies when the pandemic ends. One thing is for certain though—work will never be what is pre-COVID-19.

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