U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Killeen Fast-Food Restaurant Refused to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicant Despite His Qualifications, Federal Agency Charges
DALLAS — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that it has filed suit against CTW L.L.C., a Wendy’s franchisee, for denying employment to a hearing-impaired applicant because of his disability in violation federal law.
The EEOC charges in its suit, Case No. 6:12-CV-00091-WSS in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, that the general manager of a Killeen, Texas Wendy’s refused to hire Michael Harrison, Jr. for a cooker position, despite his qualifications and experience, upon learning that Harrison is hearing-impaired.
According to the EEOC, Harrison, who had previously worked for a different fast-food franchise for over two years, was denied hire by the general manager. Harrison said that after successfully interviewing with the Wendy’s shift manager, he attempted to complete the interview process by interviewing with Wendy’s general manager via Texas Relay, a telephonic system utilized by people with hearing impairments. Harrison’s told the EEOC that during the call he was told by the general manager that “there is really no place for someone we cannot communicate with.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship.
“In these tough economic times, opportunities for employment are at a premium,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “Here, Mr. Harrison had the work experience necessary to do the job and was prepared to contribute his solid work ethic and skills again to the food retail business, but was denied the chance to do so on irrelevant and unlawful grounds.”
The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent and correct disability discrimination. The suit also seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for Harrison and punitive damages against CTW L.L.C. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“The ADA requires companies to treat disabled persons the same as all other applicants for a job," said Joel Clark, trial attorney for the EEOC. “This company automatically refused to consider Mr. Harrison for employment solely because of his hearing impairment. Wendy’s should not have relied on its own negative, generalized assumptions about his ability to communicate.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.