Starbucks Pays $80,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Suit

A Starbucks store in Russellville, Ark., will pay $80,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com¬mis¬sion, the agency announced.

EEOC's suit, (Civil Action No. 4:09-CV-0715, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, at Little Rock), charged that the international, Seattle-based coffee company failed to hire Chuck Hannay because of his multiple sclerosis. According to EEOC, Hannay applied for one of six open barista positions but was never contacted for an interview. EEOC alleged that individuals with less experience and availability were hired instead of Hannay.

The commission said such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on a person's disability.

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit, approved by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, enjoins Starbucks from discriminating on the bases of disability and retaliation. Further, the decree requires the company to provide training to its managers and assistant managers on disability discrimination, to submit two reports to EEOC on the training and any such complaints, and to post a notice reinforcing the company's policies on the ADA. Starbucks said it also will make a good-faith effort to hire individuals with disabilities at its Russellville location by notifying Arkansas Rehabilitation Services of all job openings.

"People with disabilities should have equal opportunities for employment," said regional attorney Faye A. Williams of EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and certain counties in Mississippi. "This case demonstrates the EEOC's commitment to combating discrimination that prevents individuals with disabilities from taking their rightful place in the work force."

Pamela Dixon, EEOC trial attorney, said, "We commend Starbucks for working in a cooperative manner with the EEOC to quickly resolve the lawsuit and for instituting provisions in the workplace to prevent such conduct in the future."

According to information from Starbucks, the company has more than 16,000 locations in 49 countries.

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