The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Starbucks for firing a woman who has dwarfism in July 2009. After three days of barista training, the woman was fired from an El Paso store on the same day she asked for a stool or small stepladder to perform her job. The government says Starbucks violated federal law by failing to provide the woman with reasonable accommodation. However, the company says she had only been hired on a trial basis, and a manager determined she could be a danger to customers and workers. "Using the stool in that environment just wasn't a reasonable accommodation in that store," said a company spokeswoman.
No, it's not a big deal to put a stool in a Starbucks. What IS a big deal is that when you are standing on a stool permanently - not to reach a tall machine or do inventory or whatever - you are unable to make the quick little adjustments that you need to to get out of people's way in a very small, very busy work environment. And that's at a pretty regular sized Starbucks - when I worked at one of those super tiny miniature Starbucks, even with quick movements I got hit with hot coffee several times. Think of yourself standing on a stool - to move out of someone's way, you need to get off of the stool, and move it and yourself out of the way. When standing on the ground you move your feet a few inches to the left, let the other person get by, and you're back in business. Having someone standing on a stool is basically the equivalent of having a huge stack of boxes right in the middle of your work area that you now have to work around. I am sorry this woman was unable to work at Starbucks, but having her work on a stool really would have been beyond reasonable accommodations. I'm actually glad Starbucks gave her the trial in the first place.