Starbucks ADA Class Action Lawsuit Moves Forward
By Anne Bucher
On Friday, June 14, U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled that a class action lawsuit against Starbucks Corporation alleging violations of the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may proceed.
The class action lawsuit against Starbucks was originally filed on May 10, 2012, by plaintiffs who seek to force California Starbucks stores to lower the height of their pickup counters. The plaintiffs allege that the pickup counters are in violation of the ADA and pose safety risks to customers with disabilities because they exceed the height requirements listed in the ADA. According to the ADA Accessibility Guide, a service counter cannot require a customer to reach deeper than 20 inches or higher than 44 inches.
On a video posted on the Starbucks website, Cliff Burrows addresses the counter height issue, claiming that Starbucks has taken steps to introduce a lower-height hand-off counter at stores around the world. Burrows is the Starbucks group president, Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and executive sponsor of the Starbucks Access Alliance, a group dedicated to accessibility issues in Starbucks stores. According to the Starbucks website, the Starbucks Access Alliance Network “promotes equal access for all partners and customers to physical locations, product, communication tools and information.”
According to the class action lawsuit, Starbucks has been aware of the problems with the counters since at least 2005. However, the company has not taken action to lower the counters in its California stores. During this period, plaintiffs allege, Starbucks has continued to discriminate against “tens, if not hundreds” of thousands of disabled patrons. There are more than 2,000 California Starbucks locations.
While Starbucks argued that the plaintiffs only had standing to proceed against the Starbucks locations they had actually visited, Judge Pregerson rejected this argument. He agreed with the plaintiffs’ request to amend the class action lawsuit to allege that the ADA violations resulted from common design plans used by Starbucks at a large number of its stores.
Plaintiffs allege in the class action lawsuit that Starbucks relied on prefabricated modular pieces that could be adapted to fit any store size, a strategy that helped the company build stores quickly and inexpensively. These prefabricated pieces included the higher counters and were included in Starbucks locations throughout the U.S. Starbucks has denied that the height of its pickup counters was the result of a common design.
This class action lawsuit is the latest to be filed against Starbucks. Last month, Starbucks agreed to pay a $3 million class action settlement for claims that the company had violated federal wage and hour laws. Other class action lawsuits have been filed against the company over claims that it used beetle carcasses to dye their beverages and that they tacked on a hidden fee for bulk coffee purchases of less than a pound.
Plaintiffs in the Starbucks ADA Class Action Lawsuit are represented by Vineet Dubey at the Law Offices of Miguel A. Custodio, Jr.
Updated July 19th, 2013
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