Amusement Park and Restaurant Fired Employee with Intellectual Disability Rather than Allowing Assistance with Clock-in Procedure, Federal Agency Charged
AUSTIN, Texas - Austin's FEC, LLC and Austin Entertainment Center, LP d/b/a Austin's Park N Pizza, a Pflugerville-based amusement park, has agreed to pay $20,000 and improve its workplace practices to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, the 26-year-old former employee with a disability, caused by childhood traumatic brain injuries, worked part-time on weekends for four years at Austin's Park N Pizza, an amusement park and restaurant. He successfully performed custodial work, assisted with the miniature golf area and cleared tables. When new management arrived, the company decided he was no longer able to do the job because he did not correctly operate a new electronic system for clocking in and out of work. In its suit, EEOC said, the company was unwilling to consider an alternative clock-in procedure. Although a reasonable accommodation could have easily resolved the problem, Austin's Park N Pizza stopped paying the former employee and notified him by email that he was fired, the agency charged.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Austin's FEC, LLC and Austin Entertainment Center, LP d/b/a Austin's Park N Pizza, Civil Action No.1-15-cv-00873) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process to recover damages for the former employee.
"People with intellectual disabilities can be very productive employees with minimal assistance or direction," said EEOC San Antonio Field Office Senior Trial Attorney David Rivela. "Employers can benefit from such productivity by treating workers with disabilities fairly and decently, and ensuring that reasonable accommodation requests are properly addressed."
As part of the consent decree resolving the suit, Austin's Park N Pizza will pay $20,000 to the former employee. The company also agreed to ensure its employment policies conform with the law, implement training which specifically addresses disability discrimination, and post EEO notices at the workplace.
"This case is emblematic of EEOC's efforts to protect vulnerable workers who are willing and able to do a job. There is no justification for discriminating against a person with a cognitive impairment who has demonstrated ability and enthusiasm in executing his assigned duties," said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for EEOC's Dallas District Office.
Eduardo Juarez, supervisory trial attorney for EEOC's San Antonio Field Office, said, "Gainful employment is so important to one's psychological and economic well-being, particularly for many individuals with disabilities who confront stigma, exclusion and discrimination. Employers must ensure that individuals with disabilities who are willing and able can fully partake in the benefits of employment free of discrimination."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.