A Starbucks employee in Surprise was fired in 2014 after 7 years of employment. She claims that she was fired because she is deaf, and because she repeatedly asked for an interpreter at company meetings and training sessions. The woman has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix under provisions of the Americans with Disability Act, alleging discrimination on the basis of her disability, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and retaliation.
The woman, who has been deaf since she was a baby, was able to serve customers by lip-reading. Although this worked for her day to day job, she had a hard time lip-reading during staff meetings and training sessions, and asked managers many times for an American Sign Language interpreter. The woman says Starbucks provide an interpreter on one such occasion, and also allowed the woman’s relative to come interpret on other occasions. The company also hired an interpreter for a meeting informing the woman that she needed to have tattoos removed from her hands (the tattoo policy at Starbucks has since changed).
According to her attorney, the woman also struggles with reading certain types of documents. A store manager provided the woman with printed work schedules, which helped the woman greatly. However, when the store manager changed, the new manager refused to accommodate the woman in this way, and the woman claims she struggled with understanding the work schedule that was posted on the wall. As a result, she mixed up work dates, and received a negative work review. The next time she saw an interpreter at Starbucks, it was when she was fired.
According to a spokeswoman for Starbucks’ corporate offices, Starbucks cares deeply about all employees, and strives to create an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone. Starbucks has received awards for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including accommodations for ASL interpretation.
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