At Dunkin Donuts, Going Deaf Could Get You Fired

July 22nd? was supposed to be one of the happiest days of Stephanie Stratford’s life, her wedding day. Although Stephanie had the time of her life marrying the man she loves, that feeling of wonderfully wedded bliss was short lived for her.

Two days later on July ?24th ?, Stephanie Stratford‘s world was turned upside down due to an unforeseeable medical anomaly, Stephanie suffered a complete hearing loss and then was fired for that loss of hearing. Stephanie noticed her hearing beginning to falter about?two weeks before her wedding day, but noticed that it had become severe?one week before her wedding. Stephanie worked as a regional manager at a local Dunkin Donuts franchise owned by Larry Wright. Stephanie was tasked with duties such as:

…assisting in the opening of three new stores, I was assisting current management on getting their employees into leadership roles, and I was given the task of writing the new employee, trainer, and management training programs. I also became Serv Safe certified and Proctor certified to be able to get the place into health code regulations.

When Stephanie Stratford decided that she had to go to the doctor in order to attempt to figure out what was going on with her hearing, she informed Larry Wright of her intentions and he,

…responded assuredly, telling me he knows it will just be a bump, and I will continue my amazing work. Well July ?24th?came, two days after my wedding, and I could no longer hear at all. I contacted a specialist and set the date to go in. I took a few days off to accomplish this, with Larry’s blessings.

Stephanie was then set up with multiple doctor appointments where she endured steroids being injected into her ears as well as oral steroids. These treatments caused increasing sickness including vertigo, nausea, fatigue, and several headaches. It was at this point that Stephanie realized she would need special accommodations for work and advised Larry Wright that she would need to?put FMLA, or Family Medical Leave Act, into action. Once again Larry Wright acknowledged what was going on and advised Stephanie that they would

…revisit on or before August 31 to see if I could come back to work. He also said he would finish out my pay period and do some possible contract- work with me if I felt up to it to get his employees trained.

Once the doctor prescribed treatments were completed; Stephanie came to the conclusion that her newfound loss of hearing would be permanent, but other than that, she felt great and was determined to get back to work and start living life again. Stephanie Stratford scheduled a meeting with Larry Wright to explain her situation.

I explained that I could read lips like a pro, you wouldn’t know I was deaf unless I told you and the only two issues would be the telephone and the taking of orders in the drive thru. The telephone would be remedied by a TTY?phone, which I offered to buy myself. As far as the times I needed to work up front I was positive that the only position up front to give me trouble would be wearing the headset. This, in theory, should not be a problem because I would never be working by myself, and all managerial duties would not need the use of my hearing. The company also had plans to open two new stores without? a drive thru, that I could have easily become the manager of. I even offered to come back as a trial to assure him I could do the job.

Stephanie left the meeting feeling great, she felt as though she had given Larry Wright no option but to keep her on her job. She had given him an answer to any objections he may have had and with the promise to give her a trial run, Stephanie had high hopes that all would be well. Little did Stephanie know that the outcome of that meeting was going to be anything but good.

After waiting for?two weeks, Stephanie finally got the answer she was not ready for. Larry Wright did not call Stephanie or schedule a meeting, but emailed her to let her know that she was terminated…. effective immediately. Stephanie was heartbroken and to this day, cannot believe that happened.

Attempting to find employment as a deaf woman has proven to be impossible and now Stephanie Stratford has been left with debt-drowning medical bills, no insurance, and no light at the end of the tunnel. All of this has happened because Stephanie did what she thought was right by advising her employer of what was going on, Stephanie is the same, educated woman she was 2 months ago before this all began, but is being told that it means nothing.

Stephanie Stratford did not seek legal help due to being under the impression that it would cost her money that she does not have. If you know of a way that Stephanie can somehow be compensated by her unjust firing, you can reach her at:
[email protected]

Stephanie Stratford writes for as Stephanie Kuklish and on her own blog –

Edited by SS

I had a successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. In 2011, I made the decision to pursue my dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.