New Lawsuit Accuses New York City Starbucks of Discrimination Against the Deaf

12 plaintiffs allege that different New York City locations of Starbucks refused to serve them and made fun of them, according to a new lawsuit

Flickr/ Roberto Venetro
Details of a new lawsuit being filed against Starbucks allege that several New York City Starbucks locations repeatedly refused to serve deaf customers, made fun of them for their speech, and even ejected them in some cases.

Well, this isn't pretty: A new report from Courthouse News Service details a new lawsuit being filed against Starbucks, alleging that several New York City Starbucks locations repeatedly refused to serve deaf customers, made fun of them for their speech, and even ejected them in some cases. 

There are 12 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit, reports Courthouse News Service, which is now in Federal Court. And the details of the case, if true, don't reflect well on Starbucks. The lead plaintiff, Lawrence Bitkower, claims Starbucks tried to force out his monthly "Deaf Chat Club" meeting and said that Starbucks was closing, even though it later seated customers in that same section. Then, when another plaintiff tried to place an order with a handwritten note, an employee informed him that Starbucks would not serve deaf customers. 

The group of plaintiffs allege the discrimination happened during multiple meetings; the catalyst occured in March 2013, when the police were called to report a disturbance in the Starbucks. The police found no evidence of illegal activity, the case states, and they reprimanded Starbucks employees. 

There's been no statement or response from Starbucks; the case also states that a regional vice president of Starbucks offered an apology and gift cards to the group after the group emailed Howard Schultz and upper management. According to Courthouse News, "The plaintiffs seek an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and state and city laws."

Update: A Starbucks representative has reached out to comment on the case, with an emailed statement: "Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks is unacceptable, and we are investigating these claims. Starbucks is a leader in supporting policies that promote equality, inclusion and diversity.  Customer experience is of utmost importance and we strive to provide a welcoming environment for all."


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