Man Says Starbucks Discriminated Against Him Because He Has Half An Arm

Eli Pierre Starbucks interview discrimination ADAEli Pierre has over a decade of experience in the food industry, and a rave recommendation from his last employer. So he was surprised when his interviewer for a position at a California Starbucks told him he'd be unable to work there. Now he's suing for disability discrimination.

The 25-year-old was born with half of a left arm. But this hasn't hindered Pierre (pictured at left) in service jobs, he says. "I've been employed for 11 years," he told a San Diego TV station. "I am fully capable of running circles around most people who have two hands in the service industry."

Pierre's former employer, Shawn Zambarda, the general manager at Titletown Brewing Company in Wisconsin, agrees. "He can carry more than somebody I have ever seen with two arms," he said.

But according to Pierre's complaint, during his interview Feb. 1 at a Starbucks in Mission Valley, the hiring manager wasn't convinced and said, "Oh, at our store our syrups are up high, and I have to extend my whole body to pump it. You can't work here with one arm."

"I got angry about it," said Pierre. "I've never been told I can't do anything."

After the interview, Pierre contacted Starbucks' district manager, Sage Nord. She apologized in a message, saying that she wanted to assure him that "it is important to me to provide you with resolution." She offered Pierre an interview at another Starbucks store, but Pierre declined and is now boycotting their stores.

"I've been a longtime patron of Starbucks," he said, "and quite honestly, the taste in my mouth is awful for it right now."

On Feb. 8, he filed his lawsuit in San Diego. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, an employer cannot refuse to hire an applicant because of a disability, as long as the person is able to perform the "essential functions" of the job alone or with "reasonable accommodation."

Pierre's attorney, Joel Larabee, wrote in a statement to ABC News that Pierre would have been able to do the job with minimal or no accommodation, and that the hiring manager didn't even attempt to evaluate what accommodation Pierre might need.

"A decision was simply made on-the-spot without further exploration," he said, "based on ill-placed preconceived ideas of the limitations of his disability, and a lack of information, that Pierre could not do the job."

Pierre found the interview unsavory in other ways. It lasted only 10 to 15 minutes, and at one point the interviewer, making reference to Pierre's experience at a Victoria's Secret store, turned to the shift manager and said, "Maybe he can help you find the right bra size."

Pierre is charging Starbucks with various violations of discrimination law, as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking payment of all statutory obligations and penalties under the law, as well as punitive damages, legal fees and loss of income. Larabee said a "seven-figure range would be reasonable."

Starbucks contests Pierre's version of events. A spokesman said in a statement: "We thoughtfully considered Mr. Pierre's candidacy based on his interview responses and qualifications. Along with several other candidates interviewed that day, we decided not to move forward with Mr. Pierre's application for the Mission Valley location."




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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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flashofgreeneyes

I believe this 100%. My son fell on a non slip mat almost 5 yrs ago. Starbuck's worker comp did not even get him to a back doc until 4 months later. It was a week after before the shift would even write out a slip to go to the ER. It was shown he had a disc(s) bulging. In Oct it will be 5 yrs since the injury. He has slight range of motion limitation in left arm as a result of birth injury. Starbucks came to a agreement in December 2011 of $21,000. that figures on the gross they feel his PAIN, Suffering, and loss of youth is only worth less then; $7,000 a yr. They never sent the forms, here it is June, and the amount is the same, still no $$$.This also means No medical, no income, period for this past yr.

But HOWARD can bu a coffee machine called, The Clover, at $11,000 -$15,000 a pop. Yep I believe it is discrimination 100%

June 27 2012 at 3:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Igor Grankov

Agree with last commentor

February 20 2012 at 6:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kellydawn325

He's 25. He's from the generation that has never been told "no". I was brought up that sometimes you will be told "NO"...just deal with it. He was probably given an award just for "showing up" for practice. We have bred a generation of whiners who can't handle the truth because someone told him "You can do anything!" He wasn't taught that sometimes you just move on to another chance. This is a sad state we're living in: Sue if you don't get the right answer. Just stupid!! Why can't these cases just be thrown out?!?1

February 19 2012 at 4:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Elliot DuHon Hudgins

I don't care, as long as you get my order right.

February 19 2012 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
benny

to be honest, i dont want to visit starbucks and see something like a half of an arm, sounds cold etc, racist what ever, but honest, i want to be served by a nice looking girl and read my book, if you other folks admit the truth yall wouldnt either

February 19 2012 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to benny's comment
ABBY

I'm a girl and I prefer men & I don't care what he looks like as long as he is clean and my order is right.

February 19 2012 at 3:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Erin Rae

You are living in a fantasy world man...

March 07 2012 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ms Paulletta

Boy their are a lot of haters on here, My experience with the handicap is they work very hard twice as hard as the so called regular folks who set on there butt and give orders and treat them like some kind of servant or slave, they are not included and put down constantly for their disability and that's not fair, being a bully is wrong and the comments here are wrong. Giving him a job helps him have self respect and a means to support himself, he did say he could do the job, maybe a little differently even not as fast but he could do the job. You make me very disapointed in my fellow Man........ I hope he wins enough that he puts you all to shame!

February 19 2012 at 10:01 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bill

Maybe he should have "spilled HOT coffee in his lap" like Gretta did at Micky D's and then collect $1mil

February 19 2012 at 8:47 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tom

ya just checked out his pyrer job its a beer joint there a whole lot of diff from starbucks to that with all the mixing and such that they do makeing diff coffies were at his preavous job he just has to pull a beer handle

February 19 2012 at 8:36 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
tom

ya he is money hungry once he was offered a job at a diff starbucks and refused then it back on him not starbuck and hope the judge trows it out and makes him pay the court cost its all these frivalis lawsuite being filled is really got the courts srewed up worse than they are

February 19 2012 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big Ralph

WHAT A JOKE!! Just because America decided to give you all the great parking everywhere doesn't mean you get jobs for being handicapped.

February 19 2012 at 8:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Big Ralph's comment
jim

Well creep, have you ever checked out how many able-bodied people use those spots. I guess there's no problem using them for the convience! Screw the person who really needs it!!!!

February 21 2012 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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