Pizza Company Refused to Accommodate and Fired Disabled Employee Because He Had a Job Coach, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX - The owners of a Farmington, Utah Papa John's Pizza will pay $125,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Papa John's discriminated against Scott Bonn, who has an intellectual disability, Down syndrome. EEOC alleged that Papa John's employed Bonn successfully at its Farmington location for more than five months and allowed an independently employed and insured job coach to assist him. EEOC further charged that after an operating partner visited the Farmington location and observed Bonn working with the assistance of his job coach, the operating partner ordered Papa John's local management to fire Bonn.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities because of their disabilities or from failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities. In appropriate circumstances, such as those in this lawsuit, the use of a job coach is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. PJ Utah LLC, PJ Cheese, Inc., PJ United, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00695-TC) in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the suit, Papa John's is required to pay $125,000 to Bonn, review its equal employment opportunity policies, conduct training for management and human resources employees for its restaurants in Utah, and establish a new recruitment program for individuals with disabilities in Utah.
"Employers must understand that they cannot refuse to provide an accommodation to individuals with intellectual disabilities," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Scott Bonn is an incredible person and he loves working. He loved his job at Papa John's. Working gives all of us meaning and purpose in our lives. Employers should embrace workers like Scott who work with such joy. I want employers to know that their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation includes allowing a job coach at the workplace, if needed, absent undue hardship. The ADA is intended to ensure that each person with an intellectual disability has a right to work and be evaluated as an individual-not on the basis of his or her disability."
Laura Boswell, an attorney with the Disability Law Center in Salt Lake City, Utah and counsel for Scott Bonn, said, "In my experience, employees with intellectual disabilities, while often overlooked, are frequently among the most dedicated and hardworking. Scott exemplified these qualities while employed at Papa John's. We are hopeful that this settlement will serve to educate employers about the skills and value Scott, and employees like him, can bring to the workforce when properly accommodated."
Elizabeth Cadle, district director of EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Recruitment and hiring programs are a fantastic way for employers to build strong relationships with communities and provide meaningful employment to persons with disabilities. We encourage all employers to use recruitment and hiring programs to help us fight employment discrimination on all fronts."
EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.