Press Release 02-05-2021

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Will Pay $15,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Restaurant Refused to Hire Deaf Applicant, Federal Agency Said

BALTIMORE -- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a major restaurant chain, will pay $15,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, an applicant who is deaf applied online for the position of dishwasher. When he appeared for his scheduled interview at the restaurant’s Linthicum Heights, Md., store, however, he was turned away by a manager and later formally rejected by the restaurant after repeated attempts to contact them. Despite this, he was able to achieve a successful employment history else­where in the restaurant industry, including as a dishwasher. The EEOC alleged that the manager who turned him away did so because of his deafness.

Disability discrimination in employment violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which includes protecting disabled job applicants from inferior treatment because of their disability. The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02674-PX).

“This settlement should remind all employers that applicants, despite their disabilities, must be given the same opportunities to apply for and succeed in the workplace as non-disabled applicants,” said EEOC District Director Jamie Williamson of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. “Hiring decisions should be made based on an individual's qualifications and not because of a disability.”

In addition to the $15,000 in monetary relief to the applicant, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is enjoined from future disability discrimination and is required to provide train­ing on the ADA, including on non-discriminatory interviewing and hiring practices. The restaurant must also post a notice reminding employees of their rights under the ADA.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “We are pleased that Cracker Barrel worked with us to resolve this lawsuit. This settlement, including the training provisions, should protect applicants and employees from disability discrimination.&rdquo

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC's Baltimore Field Office, one of four component offices of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.