U.S. sues Starbucks for firing dwarf from barista job

AUSTIN, Tex Tue May 17, 2011 10:44pm EDT

Customers are seen at a Starbucks coffee store which displays their old logo in Paris March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Customers are seen at a Starbucks coffee store which displays their old logo in Paris March 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Regis Duvignau

AUSTIN, Tex (Reuters) - The government is suing Starbucks Coffee Company for firing a barista in El Paso 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 that she could be a danger to customers and workers, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission, which filed the lawsuit on Monday, said that 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."

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

"Using the stool in that environment just wasn't a reasonable accommodation in that store," said Krum.

(Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Greg McCune)

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Comments (6)
PAndrews wrote:
This shows how difficult it is to do business in the US. No wonder the economy (and the US dollar) are going down the plughole!

May 18, 2011 10:12am EDT  --  Report as abuse
akamai1 wrote:
This is a major slap in the face by Starbucks, and they should pay the price. Why hire her as a barista if you won’t let her get to the machine? It’s not like her height wouldn’t have been apparent in the interview process.

May 18, 2011 3:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Maxis wrote:
If Starbucks doesn’t settle, it’ll all boil down to the lawyers arguing what is considered “reasonable accommodations”. A step stool behind the counter, with several people working around it, can be construed as a danger to others.

May 18, 2011 4:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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