Starbucks Hit With $5 Million Lawsuit

Three young women enjoy coffee at a coffee shop

( – Coffee chain Starbucks is facing a lawsuit from multiple customers in California accusing the company of discriminating against people suffering from lactose intolerance.

Three lactose intolerant customers in California filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit against the coffee chain for charging customers who cannot consume dairy more money for their drinks when those drinks require a milk substitute, such as coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, or soy milk.

One of the plaintiffs is from Madera County, and two of them are from Los Angeles County. In their lawsuit, they argue that it is a form of discrimination to charge them an extra 50 to 80 cents for each drink requiring milk, such as a Frappuccino or a latte. The complaint was filed in Fresno at a federal court in early March.

The lawsuit argues that Starbucks has established a separate menu with higher prices “aimed at customers who cannot ingest milk,” which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against customers who suffer from lactose intolerance. They also claim that the extra cost of these substitute milk options doesn’t justify or “reflect” retail prices that are “substantially higher.”

One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Keith Gibson, said that under the ADA and California’s discrimination laws, “lactose intolerance is a protected disability.” Gibson claimed that Starbucks was engaged in illegal discrimination that has negatively impacted “millions of customers.”

A Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement that the extra charges for alternative milk choices are “customizations” to drinks such as extra espresso or extra syrup. The company also noted that for drinks other than Frappuccinos or lattes, “up to four ounces of non-dairy milk” may be added “at no additional cost.” Those beverages include cold brew, iced or hot brewed coffee, tea, and an Americano.

The customers argue that substituting dairy should be considered a free-of-charge modification because no extra ingredient is being added, simply replaced. They also argue that due to their medical conditions, using these alternatives “is not a choice,” as regular milk causes them stomach pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal distress, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Some of the lawyers in the case are also involved in similar lawsuits: one in California filed last year against Dunkin’, and another against Starbucks in Florida, filed in 2022.

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