Taco Bell is catching heat over how it treats customers with disabilities. A New Jersey woman who is deaf is suing the chain after she was allegedly discriminated against at two separate locations. Attorneys for Gina Cirrincione filed the suit in the United States District Court of New Jersey on Wednesday.
In both incidents, Cirrincione was attempting to purchase food from a Taco Bell drive-thru by writing down her order and passing it directly to an employee at the pick-up window. She claims she was "berated" by a manager before receiving her food at an outpost in Pleasantville, N.J., on January 11. The lawsuit states Cirrincione attempted to utilize a Taco Bell drive-thru in Atlantic City on March 15, but she was refused service entirely without any communication from employees at the restaurant.
"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," a representative for Cirrincione said in a statement provided to Eater.
The lawsuit cites Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires businesses to provide goods and services and "make reasonable accommodations" for individuals with disabilities. It also cites the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which likewise prohibits businesses from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Cirrincione is requesting a jury trial and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
"First and foremost our clients want to see change," attorneys Eric M. Baum and Andrew Rozynski and deaf liaison Sheryl Eisenberg-Michalowski of the Eisenberg & Baum Law Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing said in a statement. "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."
Representatives from Taco Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. See the initial court filing below.