An Orland Park man recently filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against an area Chick-Fil-A restaurant alleging the fast food company denied him employment due to his disability despite references vouching for his capabilities. The claim, filed on December 23, 2016, claims the plaintiff’s work coach spoke with the restaurant about hiring the man but was told the eatery was not interested in hiring a person with the plaintiff’s disability.
According to the complaint, “The branch manager responded that Chick-Fil-A was not interested in hiring people with disabilities. When the job coach reiterated that she thought (the plaintiff) would do a good job, the branch manager stated that people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-Fil-A.”
The allegations, if true, could possibly constitute a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and carry substantial penalties, including paying restitution to the plaintiff. While the plaintiff’s autistic condition may prevent him from doing certain things, he and his life coach believe if an employer makes certain reasonable accommodations, as required under federal labor laws, the plaintiff could perform his duties adequately.
Passed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act “prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities.” Under the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities and make facilities like bathrooms and entrances accessible to differently abled persons.
Employers who are sued by the government for not complying with the ADA may be subject to substantial civil penalties, even for first-time violations if egregious enough. Maximum penalties for first-time violations may be as high as $55,000 to $75,000 and subsequent violations may be as high as $150,000. Individuals who sue the employer can recover all lost wages and benefits, be reinstated with appropriate accommodations, compensatory damages, and be reimbursed for their legal fees.
One of the most common myths associated with the ADA is that compliance can cost businesses too much, either leading to loss of productivity or refusal to consider otherwise qualified applicants. The truth is that only three percent of accommodations cost businesses more than $1,000 and the overwhelming majority cost substantially less to help workers thrive in the workplace.
If you believe your rights were violated under the ADA or another state or federal labor law, contact our office to discuss your case. For over 25 years, the dedicated Chicago employment discrimination lawyers of Goldman & Ehrlich have helped employees in their times of need and hold wrongdoers accountable.