http://agelesspassions.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ageless-passions.png 0 0 Karen Putz http://agelesspassions.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ageless-passions.png Karen Putz2008-07-17 21:20:262008-07-17 21:20:26Steak 'n Shake -- Filing a Complaint for Discrimination
It was bound to happen.
For the last two days, friends have been sending me the news articles about Karen Tumeh, a deaf woman from Nebraska who is suing the McDonald’s corporation for refusing to provide access in the drive thru.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Back in January, my son and I had the drive thru window closed in our face, not once, but twice by a head trainer/manager of Steak ‘n Shake in Bolingbrook. “Go around and use the speaker,” I was told. Numerous attempts to explain that I was deaf did not sway him. Showing my hearing aids didn’t convince him to serve me. He stated that he could call the cops if I continued to remain in the drive thru.
Many people told me to “sue the pants off of Steak ‘n Shake!”
I wanted something more. I wanted to work with the corporation to try and affect some positive changes. I didn’t want to pursue a lawsuit. I wanted to make it so that when my kids go through a Steak ‘n Shake drive-thru, they’d be able to access it in any of their 400+ restaurants.
A meeting was set up with three Steak ‘n Shake employees: the Director of Communications, Director of Human Resources and Director of Operations. Howard Rosenblum, a deaf attorney from Equip for Equality and a person who was very familiar with the drive thru issues, joined us at the meeting. He was there to represent me and make sure that all of the bases were covered in protecting my rights.
At first, the possibility of change seemed quite possible. The three corporate staff persons were interested in making positive changes so that this would not happen to another deaf, hard of hearing or speech-challenged person in their drive-thrus. They indicated that they were not the right department to implement the changes and that we would have to meet with other staff who could put changes in place. So we left the meeting feeling positive about the direction that Steak ‘n Shake was going in.
The issue was handed over to Greg Fehribach, an attorney who works for Steak ‘n Shake. We stressed to Mr. Fehribach that we wanted to meet with the corporate employees who had the authority to make changes in the drive thru.
On Monday, Howard and I met with Mr. Fehribach and another Steak ‘n Shake attorney. Despite my request to meet near my home, Mr. Fehribach insisted on having the meeting in downtown Chicago. Right then and there, I could see that Steak ‘n Shake wasn’t planning to make this process any easier on me.
At first, our meeting went well as we explained the changes that we hoped to see at Steak ‘n Shake. After the incident in January, I did a lot of research about drive-thrus and experienced several different access options. A Subway in Indiana had a touch-screen menu so I was able to experience what it would be like to use a touch-screen. I visited the Culver’s restaurants that had the Order Assist system in place. I met with the owner of Order Assist and suggested some modifications to the system to make it more accessible.
Imagine the wonderful PR that would result from making a positive change to all of the restaurants and making the drive-thrus accessible, I said.
We quickly learned that the attorneys for Steak ‘n Shake had no interest in pursuing any changes to the Steak ‘n Shake drive-thrus that would require a physical change to the system. They believed that training their employees and providing pre-printed menus would be enough. Neither attorney had even made an attempt to explore the systems that were in use. They were not going to bring about a meeting with the corporate executives who could implement those changes. It was pretty apparent that they wanted me to settle it, not blog about it anymore and make it all go away.
The attorneys brought in the head trainer/manager who discriminated against me. He stiffly issued a canned apology and then left the room. The attorneys would not allow me to say a word or ask questions. After the apology, I got up and left the room. All the emotions of that January day came flooding back– to be denied service because you are deaf in this day and age means that we have so much more work ahead of us to obtain equal access.
So I’ll be joining Karen Tumeh in filing a complaint against a corporation for discrimination in the drive-thru. For the last six months, I explored this issue and tried to affect some positive changes in drive-thru access. I really hoped that Steak ‘n Shake was going to be a leader in this.
It’s just a shame that the corporations don’t want our business.