A lawsuit claims that Starbucks baristas in Manhattan were highly insensitive to deaf customers, including mocking their manner of speech.
The suit against Starbuck Corp., filed last week in federal court on behalf of 12 people, seeks unspecified damages for what's described as multiple occasions of abuse.
The lawsuit claims that 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.
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, the suit alleges.
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.
The complaint says they sent an email to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and other upper management. A regional vice president apologized and offered them a Starbucks gift card.
A Starbucks spokesperson said the Seattle-based company is investigating the issue, CBS New York reported.
"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."