Starbucks locations in California could be forced to lower all of their pickup counters in order to rectify alleged discrimination of individuals with disabilities.
United States District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson ruled on Friday that a class action lawsuit filed against Starbucks Corporation may require lower pickup counters in all California stores with counters that exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) height requirement, alleging violations of the ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act.
The plaintiffs contend that the higher counters, which are used to pass hot liquids, discriminate against disabled customers and pose safety risks. The ADA Accessibility Guide says a service counter cannot make the customer reach deeper than 20 inches, or higher than 44 inches.
According to the complaint, Starbucks has allegedly known about the problems with its counters since 2005, but "eight years later, hundreds of stores in California still have unlawful counters." Since then, Starbucks has supposedly continued to discriminate "against tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of disabled patrons in wheelchairs."
There are currently over 2,000 Starbucks locations in the state of California.
Vineet Dubey, the attorney representing the putative class action members, said, "It is an unfortunate reality that it often takes a class action lawsuit to force large-scale violators to address systematic abuses. We hope that Friday's ruling will expedite proceedings and ultimately force Starbucks to immediately lower the beverage pick-up counters at all of its coffee shops."
Starbucks allegedly created a common design for counter pieces that were made to fit in any store size in order to build stores quickly and inexpensively, and Starbucks uses these pieces in stores throughout the country. Starbucks contends the counter height issue did not result from a common design.