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Taco Bell sued for allegedly discriminating against deaf customer

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 (AP File Photo)

A hearing-impaired woman from New Jersey is suing Taco Bell, claiming the fast-food chain refused to serve her at one location and discriminated against her at another, because — instead of responding to a voice she couldn’t hear — she drove up to the window and handed over a note containing her order.

Attorneys for the woman, Gina Cirrincione, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey on Wednesday, according to a report from Eater.com. The 36-year-old, who communicates by sign language, claims Taco Bell failed to adhere to Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires businesses to provide goods and services and "make reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities.

The lawsuit also cites the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which similarly prohibits businesses from discriminating against the disabled.

According to a report in nj.com, Cirrincione said the manager at a Taco Bell in Pleasantville, N.J., “berated” her on Jan. 11 when she tried to place her order at the pickup window. The manager filled her order but told her to park her car and go inside the next time.

A similar experience on March 15 in Cirrincione’s hometown of Atlantic City left her "humiliated, frustrated, and confused," according to the lawsuit.

Cirrincione claims she handed a note to the worker at the drive-in window, and that after waiting for several minutes, an employee handed the note back to her and shut the window. 

She says she parked and walked inside, but the store’s employees ignored her. She left without being served.

"What we have here is a complete systemic failure by Taco Bell and its franchises to have proper policies in place and train its staff on how to take simple orders from deaf customers at its drive thrus," her attorneys at the Eisenberg & Baum Law Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing said in a statement.

On Thursday, Taco Bell provided the following statement to LawNewz.com:

"We have not yet been served with the lawsuit, so we cannot comment at this time.  However, Taco Bell has a fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment.  We do not tolerate discrimination in any form, and we have a strong policy to provide accessible service to all of our customers and fans."

In June, Scott Magee, a blind man from Louisiana filed a similar suit against McDonald's alleging the chain's drive-thru policy is discriminatory since it prohibits customers without wheels from using the service.