The U.S. government is suing Starbucks Corp. (SBUX-Q36.040.742.10%), saying the coffee company fired a barista in El Paso, Tex., because she is a dwarf.
When the employee asked for a stool or small stepladder to perform her job, Starbucks denied the request and fired her that same day, claiming that she could be a danger to customers and workers, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The commission, which filed the lawsuit on Monday, said that Starbucks violated federal law by denying a reasonable accommodation to the employee, who was hired in July 2009 and was fired after three days of training.
“Starbucks has become a virtual icon of modern American culture, appealing to an incredibly diverse customer base,” Robert Canino, a commission lawyer in Dallas, said in a statement. “We’d hope that when considering hiring a person with a disability, Starbucks would choose to enhance its brand with the mark of equal opportunity and access.”
Stacey Krum, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said the woman was hired on a trial basis and after three days the store manager decided that the work was too physically demanding for her to perform.
“Using the stool in that environment just wasn’t a reasonable accommodation in that store,” Ms. Krum said.