Legal briefs

Starbucks sued for firing dwarf who required accommodation
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/06/2011

The United States government is suing Starbucks, saying the coffee company fired a barista in El Paso, Texas, because she is a dwarf.

When the employee asked for a stool or small stepladder to perform her job, Starbucks denied the request and fired her that same day, claiming she could be a danger to customers and workers, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission, which filed the lawsuit May 16, said Starbucks violated federal law by denying a reasonable accommodation to the employee, who was hired in July 2009 and was fired after three days of training.

“Starbucks has become a virtual icon of modern American culture, appealing to an incredibly diverse customer base,” Robert Canino, a commission lawyer in Dallas, said 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.”

The woman was hired on a trial basis and, after three days, the store manager decided the work was too physically demanding for her to perform, said Stacey Krum, a spokeswoman for Starbucks.

“Using the stool in that environment just wasn’t a reasonable accommodation in that store,” she said.


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