AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Starbucks Coffee Co. has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of a Texas barista who said she was fired because she was a dwarf.
The global coffee giant agreed to settle with Elsa Sallard, who was fired in 2009 after three days of training at a Starbucks coffee shop in El Paso, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Thursday.
The firm also agreed to provide training on disability issues for all managers and supervisory employees at the firm’s El Paso locations.
The Commission filed the lawsuit in May. During her training Sallard, who’s stature is small because of dwarfism, offered to use a stool or small stepladder to carry out some of the tasks of preparing orders and serving customers.
Her offer was ignored by the manager. On the same day, Starbucks fired her, claiming that she would pose a “danger” to customers and employees.
An attorney for the Commission said Thursday that the settlement “sends the right signal from the corporate office.”
“The Starbucks customer environment is one that is often considered comfortable and progressive,” Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, said in a statement.
“By fostering that same environment for people behind the counter, Starbucks reinforces a positive public image,” he added.
In a statement, Starbucks welcomed the settlement. It said the firm had a long history of working with communities and organizations to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
“Reaching an equitable agreement with the EEOC allows Starbucks to reinforce this commitment, as well as focus on training to ensure that all of our partners are treated fairly,” the company said.
Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Peter Bohan