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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
8-18-11

Starbucks To Pay $75,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

El Paso Café Refused Reasonable Accommodation and Fired Barista Due to Dwarfism, Federal Agency Charged

EL PASO  — Starbucks Coffee Company has agreed to pay $75,000 and provide other  significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced  today. The EEOC had charged Starbucks  Coffee Company with unlawfully denying a reasonable accommodation to a barista  with dwarfism at one of its El Paso  stores and firing her because of her disability.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Elsa  Sallard, whose stature is small due to dwarfism, was denied an opportunity to  work for the world’s largest coffeehouse chain.  The job description for the barista position stated that no prior  experience was required. During the  orientation training, Sallard suggested that she could use a stool or small  stepladder to more easily perform some of the tasks of preparing orders and  serving customers. The manager at the El  Paso Starbucks location disregarded Sallard’s request, the EEOC said. On the same day that Sallard requested the  accommodation, Starbucks terminated her employment, claiming that she would  pose a “danger” to customers and employees.

Such conduct violates Title I of the Americans With  Disabilities Act (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 it would not pose an undue hardship to the  business. The EEOC filed suit (Case No.  3:11-cv-00195) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.

“Starbucks swift action to work  constructively with the EEOC in this case, not only by compensating the  applicant who was turned away, but by committing to additional training for  other stores in the El Paso  area, sends the right signal from the corporate office,” said Robert A. Canino,  regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “The Starbucks customer environment is one  that is often considered comfortable and progressive. By fostering that same environment for people  behind the counter, Starbucks reinforces a positive public image.”

Under the  terms of the two-year consent decree settling the case, Starbucks will pay  $75,000 in relief to compensate Sallard.  In addition, Starbucks has agreed to provide training on the ADA for all managers and supervisory employees at all of  Starbucks’ El Paso  locations. The ADA training will
  specifically focus on the reasonable accommodation of individuals  with disabilities. Sample scenarios used  in the training will include a discussion of the reasonable accommodation of  applicants and employees who are small in stature as a result of medical  conditions or disabilities such as dwarfism.  The training will also include a specific discussion or instruction  relating to definitions of disability under the ADA, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act,  and the interactive reasonable accommodation process.

EEOC Trial Attorney Joel Clark  added, “The ADA prohibits managers from ignoring reasonable accommodation  requests made by qualified persons with disabilities. In-house education can be effective toward  eliminating assumptions and promoting an interactive process for a more  inclusive work force.”

The  EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is  available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.