Restaurant Denied Deaf Employee Appropriate Training and Accommodation, Then Fired Him, Says Federal Agency
SEATTLE, Wash. - Restaurant giant The Cheesecake Factory, Inc., and its wholly owned subsidiary violated federal law when it failed to provide an effective accommodation for a newly hired employee and instead fired him for issues stemming from his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, The Cheesecake Factory denied Oleg Ivanov's repeated requests for orientation training with either closed captioned video or American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. Although his employer was aware that Ivanov was deaf prior to his hire as a part-time dishwasher at its downtown Seattle location, the company failed to respond to his requests for accommodation and unilaterally decided to rely on passing back and forth written notes to communicate with him at his June 2014 interview, post-hire orientation and significant meetings. EEOC found that Ivanov was provided inadequate training (also without accommodation for being deaf) on the company's online scheduling system and timekeeping process, leaving him at a disadvantage in tracking his constantly changing work hours. EEOC charges that in September 2014, The Cheesecake Factory fired Ivanov alleging attendance issues - after he reminded them that he was deaf and had not been provided with an ASL interpreter for his orientation training.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense. It is also illegal to punish the employee with a disability for requesting a reasonable accommodation. After first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process, EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. The Cheesecake Factory, Inc. and The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, Inc., 2:16-CV-1942.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Ivanov, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.
"Under the ADA, employers must interact with the employee who has a disability to find an accommodation that works for both of them," said Nancy Sienko, Director of EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "Mr. Ivanov clearly communicated that he needed an accommodation to ensure that he could succeed at the job he was hired to do, but instead The Cheesecake Factory chose to fire him."
"Congress passed the ADA to remove barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from finding and keeping their jobs," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Damien Lee. "Mr. Ivanov was a loyal and motivated worker who needed a basic accommodation in order to succeed at his job."
The Cheesecake Factory, Inc. is based in Calabasas Hills, Calif., employs over 37,000 people in 37 states and had over $1.9 billion in revenue from its operations in 2014, the year in which Ivanov worked at the company's Seattle location.
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.