Dunkin’ Donuts is discriminating against lactose intolerant customers when it charges extra for nondairy items as an addition to coffee or tea, a lawsuit says. (Associated Press)
A $5 million class-action federal lawsuit accuses Dunkin’ Donuts of discriminating against lactose intolerant customers by charging extra for nondairy items such as oat or almond milk to add to coffee or tea as a substitute for milk.
The lawsuit claims the donut shop is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging up to $2 for the items. It does not charge for regular milk additions.
“The Non-Dairy Alternative Surcharge has real and practical consequences for consumers suffering from lactose intolerance and milk allergies,” the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California states. “A consumer will pay at least $0.50-$2.15 more for a coffee-based drink at Dunkin for Non-Dairy Alternatives. Non-Dairy Alternatives, which do not contain lactose, are medically necessary for individuals with lactose intolerance and milk allergies. For those persons, the use of these Non-Dairy Alternatives is not a choice.”
The lawsuit claims the extra charge is not justified because the price of nondairy alternatives is not significantly higher than dairy milk and that Dunkin employees do not have to do extra work to supply customers with the different items.
Milk allergies are considered a disability. The ADA requires that a “public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to afford good, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations to individuals with disabilities,” the lawsuit said.
“Most importantly, the ADA provides that a ‘public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act or this part,’” the lawsuit reads.
A total of 10 plaintiffs, all with milk allergies, from California, Hawaii and New York are named in the suit. Attorney Bogdan Enica, who is representing the plaintiffs, told NBC News that more than 50 other people have requested to join the lawsuit after he filed it on Dec. 26.
One of the plaintiffs Chelsea Garland said she joined the lawsuit because she feels the extra charge is unjust.
“The Dunkin’ surcharge for non-dairy milk directly affected me, and I believed it was wrong,” said Garland in a statement released to NBC.
A spokesperson for Dunkin’ could not immediately be reached for comment.
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