Starbucks Deaf Lawsuit: 12 Patrons Sue Coffee Chain After NYC Employees Mock And Humiliate Them

By Philip Ross on July 16, 2013 4:52 PM EDT

manhattan deaf starbucks lawsuit
A Starbucks deaf lawsuit was filed in Manhattan after coffeehouse employees mocked a group of deaf customers. (Photo: Reuters)

A Starbucks deaf lawsuit was filed by 12 customers who allege employees at various Manhattan Starbucks coffeehouses made fun of them and even called the police to have some of them booted from the coffee shop. The plaintiffs, all deaf, had been mocked on different occasions; one incident took place at the Starbucks on Astor Place in lower Manhattan on March 7 when a group of deaf people gathered for their monthly Deaf Chat Coffee meeting. The Starbucks deaf lawsuit was filed last week.

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According to the International Business Times, the Starbucks deaf lawsuit says that one Starbucks employee laughed hysterically at one deaf person's speech. Another worker called the police to have the group evicted from the coffee shop, claiming that several members of the group were non-paying customers (AP reports that many of the 12 people in the group had bought pastries and coffee).

When police arrived, they apologized to the plaintiffs after they saw no illegal conduct taking place. They then reprimanded the Starbucks employees for trying to get the group kicked out of the coffeehouse.

"They were ridiculed, laughed at and told they had to leave Starbucks," lawyer Eric Baum, who is suing on behalf of a dozen deaf customers, told New York Daily News. 

Another incident included in the Starbucks deaf lawsuit involved a customer named Alan Roth. In August 2012, Roth went into a Starbucks at 424 Park Ave. South, and placed an order. Roth said that's when the barista began to laugh at him and told him he "sounded funny." According to the suit, the barista continued to jeer at Roth and asked him to repeat himself, laughing harder every time. According to New York Daily News, when Roth asked to see a manager, the barista flipped out, yelled obscenities at him and ultimately had to be restrained by other employees.

The lawsuit specified that the plaintiffs had suffered embarrassment, humiliation and emotional pain and suffering as a result of the employees' disparaging conduct.

"Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks in unacceptable," Jamie Riley, a spokesperson for the coffee chain, said. "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."

According to New York Daily News, when many of the 12 customers contacted Starbucks corporate headquarters in Seattle, they were given an apology and offered a gift card. No mention of disciplinary action was made.

Read more from iScience Times:

Grayson Clamp, Deaf Since Birth, Hears Father's Voice After Brain Stem Implant [VIDEO]

Deaf Twins Euthanized: Watch Video About Assisted Suicide Used By Marc And Eddy Verbessem In Belgium [VIDEO]

Deafness Cure Helps Gerbils Hear Again: Will It Work In Humans?

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