The EEOC recently filed a lawsuit against Starbucks Coffee Company for allegedly failing to provide a disabled employee with a reasonable accommodation. The employee is disabled by virtue of her physical impairment, dwarfism. The employee was hired by Starbucks to work as a barista preparing orders and serving customers. The employee alleges that approximately three days into her barista training, she asked Starbucks to provide her with an accommodation by allowing her to use a stool or step ladder. Instead of working with the employee to provide a reasonable accommodation, the employee alleges that Starbucks terminated her employment the same day she asked for accommodations. According to the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, Starbucks alleges it terminated her employment because she could pose a danger to customers and employees.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers are prohibited from discriminating against a qualified employee because of a disability. Additionally, the ADA defines disability discrimination to include an employer’s failure to provide an employee with reasonable accommodations for a physical impairment. If the employee’s allegations are true, Starbucks could be held responsible for paying her lost wages, costs and attorneys fees she may have accrued, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and could be ordered to reinstate her employment.
Attorney Elizabeth A. Schmidt is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C.