A potential class-action lawsuit has been filed against the popular coffee chain Dunkin’ over its practice of charging extra for nondairy milk alternatives, such as soy, almond, and oat milk. The lawsuit alleges that this practice could be discriminatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Details of the Lawsuit

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit represents ten Dunkin’ customers who, between 2018 and 2023, were charged an additional fee for opting for plant-based or lactose-free milk in various states, including California, New York, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. These customers, all suffering from lactose intolerance or milk allergies, argue that the additional charge for nondairy milk alternatives is discriminatory.

Implications of the Additional Charges

The customers faced varying surcharges, ranging from 50 cents to $2.15, for substituting regular milk with a nondairy option. The lawsuit claims these extra charges are unjust, particularly for those who medically require lactose-free alternatives. The plaintiffs are seeking damages of no less than $5 million and have requested a jury trial.

Legal Foundation and ADA Considerations

At the heart of this lawsuit is the argument that lactose intolerance and milk allergies should be considered disabilities under the ADA. The act requires public entities to make reasonable modifications to accommodate individuals with disabilities. The plaintiffs assert that Dunkin’s surcharge on nondairy milk violates the ADA, which prohibits imposing additional costs on individuals with disabilities for necessary accommodations.

Dunkin’s Acknowledgment and Response

Dunkin’, headquartered in Massachusetts, has formally acknowledged the lawsuit and has until March 4 to respond. As of now, the company has not issued a public statement regarding the lawsuit and did not respond immediately to a request for comment from ABC News.

This legal challenge against Dunkin’ highlights an ongoing debate about the costs and accessibility of nondairy alternatives in food establishments. The outcome of this lawsuit could have implications not just for Dunkin’, but for the wider food service industry, particularly in how it accommodates customers with dietary restrictions due to medical conditions.