Starbucks was apparently perfectly willing to hire Elsa Sallard as a barista for a store in El Paso, Texas, despite her having dwarfism. That was,


Starbucks Sued by U.S. Government for Firing Dwarf Employee Over Step-Stool Request

Starbucks was apparently perfectly willing to hire Elsa Sallard as a barista for a store in El Paso, Texas, despite her having dwarfism. That was, however, until she supposedly said she'd need to use a step-stool at work.

That was back in 2009, and now United States attorneys are suing Starbucks, claiming that Sallard's termination was a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The AP reports:

An EEOC statement said the lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in El Paso. It alleges that Starbucks fired Elsa Sallard after three days of training because it deemed she'd pose a danger to customers and coworkers. The EEOC contends Starbucks' actions violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The agency also seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for Sallard and a court order that Starbucks adopt policies to correct and prevent disability discrimination.

The ADA says this about employers' requirement to make "reasonable accommodations" to people with disabilities:

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the "ADA")(1) requires an employer (2) to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. "In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities."(3)There are three categories of "reasonable accommodations":

"(i) modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position such qualified applicant desires; or

(ii) modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or

(iii) modifications or adjustments that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities."(4)

Of course Stabucks can argue that providing Sallard with a stool would have imposed an "undue hardship."

What's most perplexing, however, seems to be the fact that Starbucks hired Sallard in the first place, knowing full well that her height would present certain difficulties, but then fired her when they found out that a step-stool would be required to address the issue.

Something suggests that a settlement is on the horizon for Sallard.

UPDATE: Gary Arnold, spokesperson for Little People of America, just provided the following statement to Seattle Weekly:

Thousands of people of short stature contribute to the productivity and diversity of our communities by going to work every day. In order to do our jobs effectively, many of us request reasonable accommodations. Under the law, we have a right to such accommodations.

I am very disappointed that a Starbucks in El Paso failed to meet what appears to be a request for a very simple accommodation. I hope the Starbucks in El Paso and Starbucks around the country will use this as an opportunity to build a workplace environment that is inclusive of all people with disabilities.

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