A dozen Starbucks customers, who are deaf, have blamed the coffee chain for discriminatory behavior by some of its workers, and have filed a lawsuit seeking damages for embarrassment, humiliation and emotional pain, Associated Press reported.
The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Manhattan on behalf of 12 people, and it stated that Starbucks workers laughed at them, and called the police to evict them from the coffee shop.
An official post on the Starbucks website said: "We take these allegations very seriously, and believe they are neither consistent with our values nor our track record of engaging the Deaf community both as partners and as customers."
According to AP, the incident happened at a Starbucks store at Astor Place, in lower Manhattan, on March 7. The deaf customers, who filed the lawsuit, claimed that workers at the coffee shop objected to a monthly meeting of the hearing-impaired called Deaf Chat Coffee, and laughed at their speech pattern.
The members of the Deaf Chat Coffee group were reportedly "shocked and frightened" when police officials arrived at the Starbucks outlets.
According to the lawsuit, the police responded to a call made by employees of the Starbucks outlet, who complained of a disturbance following a meeting, which the employees alleged was being conducted without a permit.
Reportedly, the Starbucks workers said that a number of people in the group were non-paying customers. The lawsuit added that the officers apologized to the gathering when they found no illegal conduct had occurred, and reprimanded staff members for calling the police.
According to the Starbucks website, the company trains its staff in American Sign Language and its stores are equipped to specially serve the deaf community.