Deaf Prep Cook at National Harbor Restaurant Demoted, Harassed, Retaliated Against and Fired, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, Inc. will pay $47,814 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Vernon Davis, who has been deaf since childhood and uses American Sign Language and reads lips to communicate, satisfactorily performed his duties as a prep cook at the McCormick & Schmick's National Harbor restaurant in Oxon Hill, Md. Prior to being hired by the defendant, Davis had obtained culinary training and had worked in several other restaurants. The EEOC said that at McCormick & Schmick's, Davis 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. The EEOC also said that Davis's prep cook duties were removed and that he was transferred to a dishwasher position because of his disability.
After Davis and others complained about Davis 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, the EEOC charged. Four months later, McCormick and Schmick's unlawfully fired Davis because of his disability and in retaliation for his complaints, the EEOC alleged in its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, Civil Action No. 8:11-cv-02695.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (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.
"Disability-based harassment is both demeaning and illegal," said Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "Employers need to respond in an appropriate, timely manner when this occurs."
In addition to the $47,814 in monetary relief to Davis, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins McCormick and Schmick's from violating the ADA, including with regard to harassment and retaliation. It must provide training on the ADA to all supervisory and managerial employees at its National Harbor location and expand its company-wide anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies. Supervisors and management will be required to monitor the workplace for any instances of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and report any such instances to management officials for further action. The restaurant will post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit at its National Harbor facility.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "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."
According to its website, http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants has more than 7,000 employees. In 2012, it became a part of Landry's, Inc., joining more than 300 locations nationwide, including restaurants, hotels, and entertainment centers.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.