NJ McDonald’s Franchisee Pays $100K For Firing Autistic Employee

New Jersey McDonald’s franchisee JDKD Enterprises, L.P will pay $100,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit arising from its termination of an autistic employee filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The lawsuit warns other employers against failing to reasonably accommodate or otherwise discriminating against individuals with autism or other disorders who can perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged JDKD Enterprises fired an employee who worked at several McDonald’s restaurants for 37 years because of his autism spectrum disorder. The employee’s per-formance remained excellent throughout his decade-long employment at the Deptford, New Jersey McDonald’s, receiving numerous awards and accolades acknowledging his excellent job performance. However, two months after JDKD Enterprises, L.P., assumed ownership of this McDonald’s, it abruptly terminated the grill cook.

The EEOC argued the termination of the employee due to his autism disorder violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities and prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions based on an individual’s disability or need for accommodations. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-16441) in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey,

In addition to paying the former employee $100,000 in monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit provides for systemic relief intended to prevent further disability discrimination, periodic reporting to the EEOC, and training for all management personnel in responding to reasonable accommodation requests.

“The ADA protects people with autism spectrum disorder, and the EEOC is absolutely committed to aggressively enforcing the ADA requirement that employers reasonably accommodate their workers with disabilities absent undue hardship,” said Debra Lawrence, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office in the EEOC announcement of the settlement.

In the EEOC announcement of the settlement, quotes EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson as saying, “Ensuring that all employees, especially management, are properly trained regarding their obligations under the ADA – including their duty to engage in good faith, diligent communications with their disabled employees about accommodation needs – is a smart business practice and the right thing to do. Leadership means stewardship of an organization’s most valuable asset – its people.”

The EEOC suit and statements warn other organizations dealing with employees with autistic spectrum or other disabilities not to discriminate and to be prepared to defend the adequacy of their actions regardless of whether choosing to allow or deny accommodation.

For Help With Comments, Investigations Or Other Needs

If your organization would like to learn more about the concerns discussed in this update or seeks assistance auditing, updating, administering or defending its human resources, compensation, benefits, corporate ethics and compliance practices, or other performance related concerns, contact management attorney and consultant Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

An attorney Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer is recognized for work helping organizations management people, operations and risk as  a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, a “Top Woman Lawyer,” “Top Rated Lawyer,” and “LEGAL LEADER™” in Labor and Employment Law and Health Care Law; a “Best Lawyers” in “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law.”

For 35 years, Ms. Stamer’s work has focused on advising and assisting businesses and business leaders with these and other employment and other staffing, employee benefit, compensation, risk, performance and compliance management and other operational solutions and concerns. Her experience includes helping management both manage performance and manage legal risk and compliance.  While helping businesses define and manage the conduct and performance of their employees, contractors and vendors, she also assists employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, leave, and other labor and employment laws, advises and defends businesses against labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, fraud and other regulatory compliance and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, SEC,  Federal Trade Commission, HUD, HHS, DOD, Departments of Insurance, and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer also speaks, coaches management and publishes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

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