Deaf Starbucks customers claim in a federal lawsuit filed in Manhattan that store employees mocked them, discriminated against them, and even called the police to get them kicked out of one location.
Filed on behalf of 12 people last week in U.S. District Court in New York City, among other things the deaf Starbucks customers' suit claimed, according to The Associated Press
, that one employee made fun of the plaintiff's speech while others objected to a monthly meeting of a group of deaf patrons called Deaf Chat Coffee and contacted police to have them removed.
The incident with the police happened on March 7 at the Starbucks at Astor Place in lower Manhattan, the AP reported. The lawsuit claimed that meeting participants were "shocked and frightened" by police and denied the store's allegations that most of the attendees were not paying customers.
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Police officers found no illegal conduct and apologized to the plaintiffs before reprimanding Starbucks employees for calling them, according to the lawsuit.
Starbucks spokeswoman Jamie Riley said the company is investigating the claims in the lawsuit.
"Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks in unacceptable," Riley told the AP. "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."
Starbucks is currently fighting another lawsuit connected with the disabled. In June, Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that a class action lawsuit connected with violations of the Americans with Disability Act against Starbucks could move forward, according to the legal website TopClassActions.com
The lawsuit, originally filed in May 2012, claimed that the pickup counters at California Starbuck stores were too high and posed a safety risk for customers with disabilities, the website said.
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Starbucks group president Cliff Burrows said in a video posted on Starbucks website that the stores had already addressed the issue with plans for new counters at all of its national and international stores, noted TopClassAction.com.
The website said that the lawsuit contended that Starbucks knew of the problem since 2005 and failed to act, discriminating against "tens, if not hundreds" of thousands of disabled patrons. TopClassActions.com said there are more than 2,000 Starbucks locations in California.
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