Starbucks Sued for Discrimination

May 26, 2011
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Elsa Sallard was hired by Starbucks to work as a barista, but was fired soon afterwards. Starbucks is accused of violating federal law by denying reasonable accommodation to the barista with dwarfism and firing her because of her disability.

Ms. Sallard claims she was only allowed to train for three days before she was fired. Since she wasn’t tall enough to do the job, and she asked to use a stool or a small stepladder. Starbucks then fired Ms. Sallard on the grounds of posing a potential danger to customers and employees.

So the question is whether Starbucks violated the Americans with Disabilities Act? The ADA states employers cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. Title I of the ADA, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, job application procedures, advancement, compensation, job training and other terms, and conditions of employment. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship. Now, the courts will need to decide whether asking for the use of a stool by Ms. Sallard poses an undue hardship.

“Employers cannot blithely ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation by a qualified individual with a disability,” one of the commission’s lawyers said in a statement. “Starbucks flatly refused to discuss Ms. Sallard’s reasonable request. Instead, they assumed the worst and fired her. The ADA was enacted to prevent that kind of misguided, fear-driven reaction.”

Starbucks is officially being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC, which is responsible for enforcing federal laws against job discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but efforts to do so was unsuccessful.

“Starbucks has become a virtual icon of modern American culture, appealing to an incredibly diverse customer base,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office of the EEOC. “We’d hope that when considering hiring a person with a disability, Starbucks would choose to enhance its brand with the mark of equal opportunity and access.”

Author: Jenny Carlton

  • Harry Adr

    The question at hand is whether Miss Elsa Sallard really would cause a danger to customers or not.  If so, than I as a customer, do appreciated that Starbucks let her go.  On the other hand, if she does not really pose a threat, and she is qualified, it would be a total shame for Starbucks to do such a thing.