Papa John’s Fired Blind Worker Who Asked to Bring Service Dog to Work: EEOC

  • Papa John’s refused to let a blind worker bring his service dog to work, and fired him instead, the EEOC said.
  • The worker needed the dog to travel to work and had asked to keep him in a back room during his shift, per the EEOC lawsuit.
  • Papa John’s has agreed to pay the worker $175,000 to settle the disability-discrimination lawsuit.

Papa John’s fired a blind worker before he’d even worked his first shift after refusing to let him keep his service dog in a back room while he worked, a federal agency claimed in a lawsuit.

The pizza chain has now agreed to pay the worker $175,000 to settle the disability-discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Michael Barnes is legally blind and relies on his service dog — a black English Labrador called Indie — for tasks including traveling.

When he applied for a job at a Papa John’s restaurant in Athens, Georgia in February 2020, he told the store manager that he needed his dog to travel to and from work but wouldn’t require it to stay next to him during his shifts, the lawsuit says.

During Barnes’ interview the store manager said that keeping the dog on the site while Barnes worked wouldn’t be a problem, and they discussed ways of keeping the dog both out of customer view and away from food preparation, including being secured in the restaurant’s conference room or under the store manager’s desk, per the lawsuit.

Papa John’s offered him the job, though his employment was delayed because of disruptions that the pandemic caused to the business. Before he could start his shifts working on the dough station, however, Barnes had to submit a formal request to keep his dog in the restaurant while he worked.

Papa John’s Accommodation Request Committee denied the request made by Barnes and the store manager, and said he should be terminated, according to the lawsuit. The EEOC says that the committee failed to speak to Barnes and “reasonably investigate” his accommodation before rejecting it.

The store manager told Barnes that if he wanted to keep the job he would need to find an alternative to keeping the dog at the restaurant, per the lawsuit.

But this was impossible, because Barnes relied on his dog to travel – and the company ultimately terminated him, per the lawsuit.

The EEOC says that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities and stipulates that they’re required to make “reasonable” accommodations.

“Not allowing blind and visually impaired people to travel to and from work in the way that affords them confidence and independence is akin to telling sighted workers who rely on the flexibility and independence of driving that they may not travel to work by car,” Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel, said in a press release.

Papa John’s has agreed to pay Barnes $175,000 to settle the lawsuit, without admitting to wrongdoing. The company will also provide training on the Americans with Disabilities Act to staff on its Accommodation Request Committee and will review its employment policies.

“As an employer, we are committed to achieving equal opportunity and maintaining a diverse and inclusive culture for all of our team members, including those with disabilities,” a Papa John’s spokesperson told USA Today.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart