Press Release 01-05-2021

Northwest Indiana Fast Food Restaurant Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Fast Food Franchisee Rescinded Job Offer and Refused to Accommodate Applicant with Disability, Federal Agency Charges

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A northern Indiana fast food restaurant violated federal law by rescinding its job offer and failing to accommodate an applicant with a disability it initially hired, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, HZ Ops Holdings, Inc., which owns and operates Popeye’s in Griffith, Ind., refused to complete onboarding of an employee it initially hired. The restaurant was told in the interview that the applicant would need a job coach present during training. It then hired the applicant and gave her paperwork and the employee handbook. Afterwards, however, the restaurant told the applicant’s job coach it could not hire the applicant because it was concerned she would hurt herself due to her cognitive disability.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. The EEOC asserts that the company’s actions were intentional and demon­strated a reckless indifference to the applicant’s federally protected rights.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. HZ Ops Holdings, Inc., d/b/a Popeye’s, Case No. 2:20-cv-00486-JTM-APR) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The agency is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief from HZ OPS Holdings, Inc., including a permanent injunction to prevent the company from engaging in future disability discrimination in hiring.

“The ADA shields an applicant from disability-based assumptions about job ability ,” said Kenneth L. Bird, Indianapolis District Office Regional Attorney. “An employer cannot reflexively consider an individual’s disability to bar or deny reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant, ” explained Bird.

The Indianapolis District Office of the EEOC oversees Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

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.