Starbucks sued for discrimination against deaf people

Because we all needed yet another reason to hate Starbucks, the Seattle-based coffee chain is being sued for allegedly discriminating against deaf customers in Manhattan. According to the twelve plaintiffs, staff members mocked and frightened them at a Starbucks store at Astor Place, even calling the police on a meeting of a group for those who are hearing impaired.

The lawsuit says one worker “laughed hysterically” at the voice of a deaf customer (because apparently Joy from My Name Is Earl works at Starbucks). Additionally, employees called the police on a meeting of Deaf Chat Coffee, a group that organizes social coffee events for members the deaf community. They apparently objected to the small gathering being held without a permit, so they had the police arrive to disperse it. When law enforcement came to check in on the “disturbance,” the customers were “shocked and frightened.” Fortunately, cops apologized to the group and reprimanded employees when they realized there was no illegal conduct happening.

As a result of these instances, the plaintiffs are citing “humiliation, embarrassment and emotional pain and suffering” as the basis of their lawsuit. Starbucks spokeswoman Jamie Riley says the company is investigating these claims:

“Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks in unacceptable. We take these allegations very seriously and believe that they are neither in line with our values nor our track record of engaging the deaf community as partners and as customers.”

I realize this isn’t our typical genre of conversation as we are, at heart, a feminist fashion, beauty and pop culture site, but the treatment of those with disabilities is a hugely important issue. Actually, no: the treatment of human beings is a hugely important issue. It should be for everyone, really. Insulting or mocking somebody for how they experience life, how they speak or look or walk (hi!), is not only completely ridiculous — seriously, how does criticizing somebody for something that is out of their control make any type of sense? — it also tells the world that you are a complete asshole. Don’t be a complete asshole, please.

Photo: ralph and jenny / Flickr