Pizza Delivery Company Unlawfully Refused Job Coach for Worker With Intellectual Disability and Then Fired Him, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - PJ Utah LLC, PJ Cheese, Inc., and PJ United, Inc., collectively doing business as Papa John's, violated federal law by firing an employee because of his intellectual disability, Down Syndrome, after refusing to allow him the reasonable accommodation of a job coach, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
The EEOC's lawsuit charges that Papa John's discriminated against Scott Bonn by failing to reasonably accommodate his Down Syndrome and by terminating him because of his disability. According to the EEOC's suit, Papa John's employed Bonn successfully at its Farmington, Utah location, allowing an independently employed and insured job coach to assist him, until an operating partner visited the location. The EEOC alleges that the operating partner, upon observing Bonn working with the assistance of his job coach, ordered Papa John's to fire Bonn.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities by failing to reasonably accommodate their disabilities. The use of a job coach is considered a reasonable accommodation where the situation calls for one.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. PJ Utah LLC, PJ Cheese, Inc., PJ United, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-00695-BCW) in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The agency is seeking monetary relief including back pay with pre-judgment interest and compensatory damages. The EEOC is also seeking an injunction prohibiting future discrimination and any other curative relief to prevent Papa John's from engaging in any discriminatory practices.
"People with intellectual disabilities are one of the most underemployed segments of the workforce," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Many disabled persons are qualified, ready and willing to work. All they need is an equal opportunity. Job coaches are one form of reasonable accommodation that allows employees with intellectual disabilities to be able to work."
Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Employers who terminate people because of their disability or because they requested a reasonable accommodation are violating federal law. We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation's laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.