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article imageStarbucks sued for 'fear-driven' firing of barista with dwarfism

By Lynn Herrmann     May 18, 2011 in Lifestyle
El Paso - The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Monday against Starbucks Coffee Company for refusing reasonable accommodation and firing a barista with dwarfism, conduct allegedly violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.
After refusing to discuss an employee’s reasonable request, an El Paso, Texas Starbucks is the target of a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of Elsa Sallard, who was fired by the coffee giant in July, 2009, an EEOC statement reports.
Hired on July 27, 2009 to work in a customer service position, Starbucks terminated Sallard just three days later, July 30, even though the job description for the barista position required no previous experience.
“Starbucks has become a virtual icon of modern American culture, appealing to an incredibly diverse customer base,” said Robert A. Canino, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s district office, based in Dallas, in a statement. “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.”
Sallard has a physical impairment, dwarfism, and was fired after requesting the use of a stool or small stepladder for performing essential functions such as order preparations and customer service at the counter. Starbucks disregarded her request, with her employment being terminated the day of the request, claiming she could pose a danger to customers and employees, the government statement noted.
According to EEOC
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers form 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 calls for employers to make reasonable accommodations for employee and applicant disabilities as long as undue hardships are not imposed.
After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, EEOC filed the suit which seeks injunctive relief, covering preparation of policies to prevent and correct disability discrimination. In addition, the suit seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for Sallard and punitive damages against Starbucks.
Joel Clark, a trial attorney for EEOC, said: “Employers cannot blithely ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation by a qualified individual with a disability. 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,” the government statement notes.
Starbucks, with worldwide locations, has at least a dozen in the El Paso area. The coffee shop where the alleged violation took place is not specified, the El Paso Times reports.
Starbucks did not reply to repeated attempts by Digital Journal for comment.
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