Wendy's Franchisee to Pay $41,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

DALLAS - CTW L.L.C., a Wendy's franchisee, has agreed to pay $41,500 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged the company with unlawfully denying employment to a hearing-impaired applicant because of his disability at a Killeen, Texas Wendy's.

According to the EEOC's suit, Case No. 6-12-CV-091 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, the general manager the restaurant refused to hire Michael Harrison, Jr. for a cooker position, despite his qualifications and experience, upon learning that Harrison is hearing-impaired. Harrison had experience working in the fast food industry, previously working for a fast food hamburger franchise for over two years. Harrison said that after successfully interviewing with the Wendy's shift manager, he attempted to complete the interview process by interviewing with the general manager via Texas Relay, a telephonic system utilized by people with hearing impairments. Harrison told the EEOC that during the Texas Relay call he was told by the general manager that "there is really no place for someone we cannot communicate with."

Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, job application procedures, advancement, compensation, job training and other terms and conditions of employment. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' disabilities as long as it would not pose an undue hardship to the business. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the two-year consent decree settling the case, Wendy's will pay $41,500 in relief to Harrison. In addition, Wendy's has agreed to provide training for all managers and supervisory employees, including its company president, on the ADA. The training will include a discussion related to hiring individuals with disabilities. In addition, the training will include a specific instruction on communication devices, such as the use of the Texas Relay System or video relay service regarding communication between Wendy's employees and applicants with hearing impairments.

"Michael Harrison demonstrated a great deal courage by coming forward to report what happened to him," said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office. "Applicants with disabilities can be productive workers when they are given the opportunity to apply for a job. We appreciate Wendy's' willingness to take swift action to work constructively with the EEOC in this case, not only by compensating the applicant who was turned away, but also by committing to training its employees about how to respond to applicants with hearing impairments."

Janet V. Elizondo, district director of the Dallas District Office, added, "This is a very positive result that furthers the EEOC's efforts to promote and support employment opportunities for people with hearing impairments."