A dwarf barista was discriminated against by Starbucks, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Texas on May 12, 2011, claims that the barista, who had the physical impairment of dwarfism, requested the use of a stool and or small step ladder as a “reasonable accommodation” to enable her to operate the cash register and to prepare beverages at a Starbucks in El Paso, Texas. According to the EEOC, after requesting this “reasonable accommodation” to perform the essential functions of her position, Starbucks failed to engage in an interactive process and failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. Instead, the barista was terminated on the basis that she would be a danger to customers and employees.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC’s press release on the case stated: “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.”