Workplace discrimination takes many forms, from outright racial bias to subtle actions against workers or job applicants who suffer from various types of physical disability. An unusual case against Louisville-based Papa John’s Pizza was recently settled when Papa John’s agreed to pay $175,000 to an employee who claimed disability discrimination because he was not allowed to bring his service dog to work.
The employee in question suffered blindness and relied on his service dog to get him to work. When he heard that Papa John’s hired individuals with vision impairments, he reached out to a Papa John’s store in Atlanta. The applicant told the store manager about his disability and asked for permission to bring his service dog to work. The employee was told that he was required to obtain approval for his accommodation disability before he could start work.
Papa John’s denied the request, and the employee was fired before he worked a single shift. Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission commenced legal action against Papa John’s.
The consent decree
The Agency first tried to reach a settlement by using its conciliation process. When this effort proved fruitless, the EEOC commenced a legal action in federal court in Georgia. The parties eventually negotiated a mutually acceptable two year consent decree. Papa John’s agreed to pay $175,000 to the employee, to train its employees on the provisions of the ADA, review its employment policies, and allow the Agency to monitor complaints of discrimination or retaliation.
In commenting upon the consent decree, the EEOC’s general counsel compared Papa John’s discriminatory action to an employer that does not allow its sighted employees to use an automobile to travel to work.
Lessons for employer and employee
This case demonstrates how an employee can successfully fight discriminatory behavior by a potential employer, and it also shows how thoughtless employee policies can become the basis for a successful discrimination claim.