Dunkin’ Donuts sued for discrimination against people who can’t drink dairy milk

10 plaintiffs are suing Dunkin’ over charges of non-dairy alternatives in drinks  (Getty Images)
10 plaintiffs are suing Dunkin’ over charges of non-dairy alternatives in drinks (Getty Images)

Dunkin’ Donuts is facing a $5m class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination against people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.

The lawsuit, obtained by The Independent, takes issue with the fact that customers may pay up to $2.15 extra to get non-dairy milk alternatives in their Dunkin’ drinks.

Depending on the date and where they bought a drink, plaintiffs said when they requested alternatives such as soy, oat, coconut or almond milk, they were hit with a $0.50 - $2.15 surcharge by the store, the lawsuit claims.

The suit, which lists 10 named plaintiffs and was filed in a district court in Northern California alleges that this additional charge amounts to discrimination against people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy milk.

“Being able to drink milk is a choice for some people, but it’s not for others. Lactose intolerance is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended,” said Bogdan Enica, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, according to NBC.

Dunkin’ Donuts has filed a waiver acknowledging the lawsuit, according to court documents, and has until around the start of March to respond.

The lawsuit claims that Dunkin’ provides modifications or substitutes for people with heart conditions, such as allowing the beverage to be caffeine-free, or for people with diabetes by having a sugar-free option, at no additional charge.

The lawsuit believes that the charges are discriminatory (Getty)
The lawsuit believes that the charges are discriminatory (Getty)

The Dunkin’ allergen statement is also noted in the lawsuit, with images of the notice displayed in stores that says that their products may contain or may have come into contact with allergens.

The statement also advises customers to inform their server if they have a food allergy, but “they only accommodate those with lactose intolerance or allergies to milk by imposing a surcharge,” the complaint alleges.

In the complaint, they state that lactose intolerance and milk allergies are disabilities and that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires 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 said, citing the act.

Chelsea Garland, a plaintiff from San Diego who is lactose intolerant, said she joined the lawsuit because she believed it was unfair that she had to pay more for a beverage that would not make her ill, according to NBC.

“The Dunkin’ surcharge for non-dairy milk directly affected me, and I believed it was wrong,” said Ms Garland in a statement.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Mr Enica said that more than 50 people who have milk allergies or are lactose intolerant have contacted him seeking to join the legal filing against the restaurant, the outlet said.

The lawsuit seeks $5m in damages.

The Independent has contacted Dunkin’ Donuts and Mr Enica for comment.