Starbucks Sued for Disability Discrimination

September 15, 2006 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a suit against Starbucks in US District Court alleging the coffee retailer discriminated against an employee with psychiatric disabilities.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the EEOC claims Starbucks violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against Christine Drake, not accommodating her needs, and firing her. After two years on the job, a new manager at the Seattle store where Drake worked decreased her hours and berated her in front of customers, the EEOC claims.

Drake is bipolar, has major depression, attention deficit disorder and borderline personality disorder, EEOC attorneys said, according to the news report. T wo different managers previously accommodated her by giving her additional time to study how to make drinks, letting her practice making drinks in the Seattle store, and allowing her to not make coffee during peak business hours.

The EEOC said the new manager did not provide those accommodations and told Drake she was “not Starbucks material” before firing her in May 2004.

The agency is seeking $40,000 in lost wages for Drake, and will seek $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages if the case goes to trial. The EEOC, which said the lawsuit was filed after negotiations with Starbucks failed, also asks in the suit to have the retailer engage in anti-discrimination training.