Disability-based harassment is both demeaning and illegal in the workplace.
McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, Inc., with more than 7,000 employees in 300 locations nationwide, including restaurants, hotels, and entertainment centers, recently settled a lawsuit with the EEOC for this very issue.
An employee, who is deaf, satisfactorily performed his duties as a prep cook. He obtained culinary training and had worked in several other restaurants before being hired by McCormick & Schmick's National Harbor restaurant in Oxon Hill, Md. He uses American Sign Language and reads lips to communicate. According to the EEOC, this employee was harassed by a former management official because of his disability, through mockery (e.g. being called "vermin" instead of "Vernon"), and through threatening physical conduct. In addition, his prep cook duties were removed and he was transferred to a dishwasher position because of his disability. Furthermore, after the employee and others complained about his being subjected to disability discrimination, the restaurant demoted him to a janitorial-type position and cut his hours because of his disability and in retaliation for the complaints. He was then fired.
This violation will cost McCormick & Schmick’s $47,814 paid directly to this employee. In addition, the company must:
a) provide training on the ADA to all supervisory and managerial employees;
b) expand its company-wide anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies;
c) require supervisors and management to monitor the workplace for any instances of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation report any such instances to management officials for further action; and,
d) post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit at its National Harbor facility.
Remember: The ADA prohibits employers from harassing an employee because he has a disability. The ADA also forbids employers from firing or otherwise taking adverse actions because an employee complained about disability discrimination.
EMPLOYERS NEED TO RESPOND IN AN APPROPRIATE, TIMELY MANNER WHEN THIS TYPE OF HARASSMENT OCCURS.
This settlement should remind all employers of their obligation to prevent disability-based harassment and to ensure that employees are not punished or fired for exercising their federally protected right to oppose unlawful workplace harassment.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.