A deaf woman has sued Taco Bell for discrimination, arguing that two New Jersey locations’ refusal to let her use the drive-through violates both state law and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
As AOL News reports, Gina Cirrincione, who is deaf and who communicates mostly through sign language, tried to use the drive-through at a Taco Bell in Pleasantville, New Jersey in January of this year. Rather than verbally giving her order to the employee via the two-way speaker, like most customers do, Cirrincione instead drove up to the window and handed an employee a piece of paper with her order written on it.
In court documents obtained by Eater, Cirrincione complains that a manager “berated” her for using the drive through window before giving her food.
In a second incident, in March, Cirrincione went to another New Jersey Taco Bell, this time in Atlantic City. After attempting to order at the drive-through via a piece of paper, the employee just handed the note back to her without saying a word, and didn’t give her any food. She went inside to complain, and she alleges that employees completely ignored her.
In a statement provided by her attorney, Cirrincione complained not only of Taco Bell’s refusal to serve her, but also complained of the training the restaurant’s management and employees are given.
“Through this discriminatory treatment, she learned not only that Taco Bell restaurants are inaccessible to deaf individuals, but that Taco Bell employees and managers are inadequately trained and improperly informed about the communication rights and needs of deaf people.”
Cirrincione’s suit claims that Taco Bell’s actions violate both the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and similar New Jersey legislation, simply titled the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The ADA requires businesses to make “reasonable accommodation” for customers with disabilities. Similarly, New Jersey law also prohibits businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities.
— Martin Hart (@martinhartman55) July 14, 2016
Whether or not refusing to allow a deaf person to make their order via a piece of paper handed to an employee at the drive-through window violates the principal of “reasonable accommodation” will be up to a jury to decide. Cirrincione’s lawsuit requests a jury trial; she is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
In a statement, attorneys for the Eisenberg & Baum Law Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing noted that it’s not just Taco Bell locations in New Jersey that prevent deaf people from using their drive-through services.
“First and foremost our clients want to see change. All over the country, drive-thrus are inaccessible to the deaf customer. Deaf individuals should not be denied access to drive-thrus and should be treated equally. Fast food chains should insure that they are providing equal access to all people.”
This is not the first time Taco Bell has been sued for discrimination. In 2014, according to The New York Daily News, longtime manager Juanita O’Connell sued the company, saying she was fired after her manager told her not to hire “Hispanics.”
O’Connell claimed that her own manager fired a Mexican-American employee, then told O’Connell, “Didn’t I tell you not to hire Hispanics?” When she went over her own boss’ head and complained to the district manager, she was fired.
She sued for back wages as well as civil rights violations and racial and gender discrimination.
Do you think a deaf woman is in her rights to sue Taco Bell for refusing to allow her to use the drive-through window?
[Image via Rob Wilson/Shutterstock]