U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Deaf Prep Cook Demoted, Harassed, Retaliated Against and Fired, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE – McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant in National Harbor, Md., violated federal law when it harassed, demoted and fired a prep cook because of his deafness and as retaliation for his complaints about the mistreatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the suit, Vernon Davis has been profoundly deaf since he was a young boy and had performed satisfactorily since his hire as a prep cook in May 2008. Beginning in May 2009 up until his termination, Davis was mocked, had boxes kicked at him and was called “vermin” instead of Vernon. After he complained about the discriminatory treatment, the restaurant demoted him from his prep cook position to dishwasher, and from dishwasher to utility person while cutting his work hours. Finally, the EEOC said, Davis was fired as retaliation.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended by the ADA Amendments of 2008, and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-02695) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In the suit, EEOC seeks lost wages as well as compensatory and punitive damages. It also seeks injunctive relief to prevent discrimination from recurring.
“People with hearing impairments can perform successfully on the job and should not be denied opportunities because of stereotypical assumptions,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “Some employers assume incorrectly that these workers will have difficulty communicating in fast-paced environments, when, in reality, they can be very effective workers.”
According to its website, (www.mccormickandschmicks.com), “The McCormick & Schmick’s ‘people focus’ extends to our employees as well, whom we treat with the utmost respect and for whom we provide growth opportunities at many levels.” The company has more than 80 locations across the country and more than 7,000 employees.
In fiscal year 2010, private-sector workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC hit an unprecedented level of 99,922, which included a record-high number of disability charges (25,165) – an increase of 17.3 percent in disability charges over the prior fiscal year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.