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Lawsuit Claims Some NYC Starbucks Workers Mocked Deaf Customers

Suit Seeks Unspecified Damages
FILE - People sit inside a Starbucks Coffee shop in lower Manhattan (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

FILE – People sit inside a Starbucks Coffee shop in lower Manhattan (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Starbucks has been slapped with a discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims some Starbucks workers in Manhattan were highly insensitive to deaf customers on several occasions, including mocking their manner of speaking.

The suit was filed last week in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of 12 people and seeks unspecified damages for what’s described as multiple occasions of abuse.

One Starbucks employee laughed hysterically at a plaintiff’s speech while others objected to a monthly meeting of a group of deaf people named Deaf Chat Coffee and called police, according to the suit.

The lawsuit said the police were summoned to a Starbucks store at Astor Place on March 7 after more than 10 people, some of whom bought coffee and pastries, gathered for the monthly meeting.

According to the lawsuit, those participating in the meeting were “shocked and frightened” when police responded to a report of a disturbance, a meeting being conducted without a permit and an allegation that most deaf people at the store weren’t paying customers.

The police officers found no illegal conduct and apologized to the plaintiffs before reprimanding Starbucks employees for calling them, the lawsuit said. The plaintiffs had suffered humiliation, embarrassment and emotional pain and suffering as a result of the Starbucks employees’ actions, it said.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company is investigating.

“Discrimination of any kind at Starbucks in unacceptable,” spokeswoman Jamie Riley 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.”

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