Fired dwarf barista gets $75,000 from Starbucks in a disability discrimination lawsuit
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Fired dwarf barista gets $75,000 from Starbucks in a disability discrimination lawsuit

El Paso : TX : USA | Aug 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM PDT
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Starbucks denied an El Paso woman a barista job at the company, but will be paying her anyway. Here’s why:

Former employee Elsa Sallard, an El Paso woman with dwarfism, wanted a chance to work as a barista so she applied for a job at Starbucks. The manager initially entertained the idea of hiring her. But it quickly became clear that she was not tall enough to easily work at Starbucks, the global coffee giant.

Sallard accused Starbucks of ignoring her request for a small stepladder or stool to help take charge and prepare orders to serve customers during three days of training at a branch in El Paso, in the US state of Texas, in 2009. The upset woman claimed she was fired from the job for being a dwarf and filed a lawsuit against the Seattle-based coffee company.

Starbucks, the global coffeehouse chain, had to pay $75,000 to settle her claim after disability discrimination lawsuit was brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her lawsuit said Starbucks fired her, citing the belief that Sallard could "pose a danger to customers and employees."

This year in May, the EEOC filed suit against Starbucks. Joel Clark, a trial attorney for the EEOC said, "Employers cannot blithely ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation by a qualified individual with a disability. Starbucks flatly refused to discuss Ms. Sallard's reasonable request. Instead, they assumed the worst and fired her. The ADA was enacted to prevent that kind of misguided, fear-driven reaction."

The coffee company welcomed the settlement and said it had a long history of working with communities to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. A Starbucks spokesman said: "Reaching an equitable agreement with the equal employment opportunity commission allows Starbucks to reinforce this commitment, as well as focus on training to ensure that all of our partners are treated fairly."

Now that Starbucks has settled the complaint with Sallard, the EEOC’s attitude toward the company has changed. “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,” Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, said in a news release.

A spokesman for the commission said: "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."

Moreover, to dispel the matter, Starbucks also agreed to conduct training for managers regarding the disability issue at all El Paso locations.

Michelle Lincaster is based in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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