Starbucks coffee houses are often used as meeting places. Many of their stores have large seating areas, encouraging customers to lounge. People are frequently seen using laptops, or engaging in conversation for lengthy periods of time. When a group of hearing impaired individuals met at a lower Manhattan Starbucks in March, they were mocked by the employees of the coffee chain.
Today, the group has filed a lawsuit, asking for unspecified damages.
On March 7th, 12 members of the ‘Deaf Chat Coffee’ group held its monthly meeting at a Starbucks. Some of them purchased coffee and pastries. One of the employees began to laugh hysterically at the speech patterns of the group, and called for the police to evict them.
Starbucks spokeswoman Jamie Riley said that she is investigating the incident.
“Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks in unacceptable,” she 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.”
In the lawsuit, the group said they were ‘shocked’ and ‘frightened’ when police arrived, believing it was because some were not paying customers.
When police evaluated the situation, they apologized to the group, and reprimanded the employees for calling them.
The lawsuit alleges that members of the group ‘suffered humiliation, embarrassment and emotional pain and suffering.’
This may be one case proving the old adage that ‘he who laughs last, laughs best,’ as the Starbucks employees who mocked the deaf will have their day in court.
Alfred James reporting