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EEOC Settles Discrimination Lawsuit Claiming Job Applicant Was Not Hired Because Of Disability

Dont Stereotype Me

Having represented employment discrimination victims for more than twenty years, our Lake County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers know that disabled job applicants face significant obstacles in their efforts to gain employment. In this article, our Leesburg, Florida employment discrimination attorneys explain how a recent disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates the protection afforded to disabled applicants for employment under the federal anti-discrimination laws.

In a press release issued on February 5, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (Cracker Barrel) to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. On August 29, 2018, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination case, U.S. E.E.O.C v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., Case No. 1:18-cv-02674, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. In the Consent Decree, which was approved by U.S. District Court Judge Paula Xinis on February 6, 2021, Cracker Barrel agreed to pay $15,000 to resolve the disability discrimination case.

Protection Against Disability Discrimination

The EEOC filed the disability discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of an individual who applied for employment with Cracker Barrel, Donte Kess (Kess). The ADA makes discrimination on the basis of disability an unlawful employment practice. The ADA protects employees and applicants for employment from disability discrimination. The ADA forbids disability discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, demotion, promotion, work assignments, and discharge. In order to be protected from disability discrimination by the ADA, an employee or applicant for employment must have an actual disability, a record of a disability, or be regarded or perceived by the employer as having an actual disability. Protection against disability discrimination is further limited to employees and job applicants who are able to perform the essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, of the position held or desired. The EEOC alleges that Cracker Barrel unlawfully discriminated against Kess by refusing to hire him based on his disability (deafness).

Discriminatory Failure To Hire Alleged

At the age of three, Kess became profoundly deaf in both ears due to an illness. Because his deafness substantially limits him in the major life activities of hearing and speaking, Kess has an actual disability within the meaning of the ADA. In June 2016, Kess applied for a job with Cracker Barrel as a dishwasher. Kess had extensive experience as a dishwasher and was qualified to perform the essential functions of the dishwasher position. The EEOC maintains that Cracker Barrel hires dishwashers on a continuous basis and had several dishwasher openings at the time of Kess’ application.

On June 13, 2016, Cracker Barrel scheduled Kess for an interview as a dishwasher at its restaurant in Linthicum Heights, Maryland. The interview was scheduled for June 16, 2016. Cracker Barrel scheduled Kess to interview with a manager named Trader. When Kess arrived for the interview on June 16, 2016, a manager met Kess in the front of the restaurant and told him that Trader was not there. The manager, the EEOC alleges, was “visibly uncomfortable interacting with Kess who was attempting to communicate with her through written notes.” The manager, according to the EEOC, would not write notes back to Kess but simply mouthed the words “she’s not here.”

The EEOC contends that it is Cracker Barrel’s policy that when a person arrives for a job interview, the interview is to be conducted by any manager available. The manager, however, did not interview Kess or even ask his name. The EEOC maintains that the manager dismissed Kess without informing him of Trader’s future availability or attempting to reschedule the interview. Cracker Barrel did not hire Kess for the dishwasher position. During the first three weeks of July 2016, according to the EEOC, Cracker Barrel hired three dishwashers who were not deaf to work at its Linthicum Heights, Maryland restaurant. The EEOC contends that Cracker Barrel did not hire Kess because he is deaf.

Attorneys For Discrimination Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws making disability discrimination an unlawful employment practice. In seeking to protect and vindicate the rights of disabled employees and applicants for employment, the EEOC files lawsuits on behalf of disability discrimination victims.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on February 5, 2021 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, Jamie Williamson, explained that “this settlement should remind all employers that applicants, despite their disabilities, must be given the same opportunity to apply for and succeed in the workplace as non-disabled applicants.” “Hiring decisions,” Mr. Williamson added, “should be based on an individual’s qualifications and not because of a disability.” In commenting on the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, Debra M. Lawrence, stated that “this settlement should protect applicants and employees from disability discrimination.”

Leesburg, FL Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Lake County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims for more than two decades. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or have questions about whether you have been unlawfully discriminated against in violation of the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Leesburg, Florida employment discrimination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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