Starbucks Refuses to Let Dwarf Employee Use a Step Stool

Sasha Brown-Worsham
25

People tend to either love or hate Starbucks. And many of those who love it are those who hate major corporations like Wal-Mart because of how they treat their employees. Well now they have to hate Starbucks, too. Starbucks is in trouble because they fired an employee who was also a dwarf because they didn't want to allow her to use a step stool.

Elsa Sallard, a dwarf, was hired to work as a Starbucks barista in El Paso, Texas. According to her lawsuit, she was only allowed to train for three days because after she asked for a step stool to do her job, they fired her. The question at hand: Did Starbucks violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, which mandates that employers must make reasonable work accommodations to avoid discrimination?

The answer: yes. Because how hard is it to keep a step stool on hand? 

It had to happen sometime. No corporation is without blame for something. Wal-Mart treats their employees badly. Cracker Barrel discriminates against gays. And Exxon Mobil is trying to destroy the environment.

There are numerous reasons to not like corporations, from the CEO salary to the way the door greeter is denied medical coverage, but discriminating against employees or not making accommodations for their shorter stature is right up there with oil in the water supply in terms of egregious corporate behavior.

Starbucks argued at the time that to make such accommodations would be dangerous to all employees. And obviously handling hot beverages and steaming things during a rush with a tripping hazard in the way IS dangerous. Plus, there is an assumed height in the job description as she must be able to reach the counter where the entire job takes place.

On the other hand (the RIGHT hand, as it were), there shouldn't be a job that a person who is intellectually capable of performing isn't allowed to perform. If she can't work at Starbucks, that also eliminates 90 percent of the jobs in the service industry, which leaves her where? Unemployed? How is that fair?

It isn't unreasonable to expect employees to step around her or to build something into the floor that allows her to stand high enough to reach over the counter.

It isn't an ideal scenario, but then neither is being born a little different than others. Do we really want to be the kind of society that discriminates based on height? Starbucks has plenty of money and creativity, and I am willing to bet they could have sat down, focused, and come up with a safe and feasible solution for her to be able to continue working. Instead, they chose to let her go.

And so they deserve to get sued. I hope she makes all the money she would have made working there and gets to do whatever she wants with it.

Do you think Starbucks was wrong?

 

Image via Cherrysweetdeal/Flickr

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