Starbucks Takes on Tourette Syndrome

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As reported by WalletPop: “a Florida man is suing the Starbucks on Powerline Road west of Boca Raton. Robert Friedman suffers from Tourette syndrome, a genetic disorder which is characterized by uncontrollable outbursts, often laced with obscenities. Last year, he was visiting the Starbucks and suffered from such a flare-up; customers said he banged on the wall and shouted curse words. Although Friedman says he later apologized for the eruption, the employees called the local sheriff's office, asking deputies to remove him from the premises and give him a ‘no trespass’ warning.” So he’s decided to sue, and he may very well have a case.

According to the Palm Beach Post, “The Florida Commission on Human Relations, which investigates claims of discrimination, found that there was evidence that the coffee shop didn't take steps to make accommodations for Friedman's disability.”

Tourette Syndrome is a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and businesses are required to accommodate customers that suffer from it.

But what if a disability, like Tourette syndrome, drives other customers away and ultimately hurts a business’ bottom line? What if children are within earshot? Also, what if this outburst happened on an airplane and the person with Tourette syndrome started shouting “bomb” and was banging on windows or worse, the cockpit door. How could an airline accommodate that?

I don’t think that this Starbucks incident comes close to the airplane scenario, but it is food for thought. Maybe Starbucks should get over itself and just let the guy come in, have his outburst, get his coffee and leave. But then again, I do think that Friedman should do his best to make sure that other customers understand his disability if and when it pops up.

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