Employee Fired Day After Arriving at Work with Shunt in Arm for Intravenous Treatment of Cystic Fibrosis, Federal Agency Charges
BOSTON - Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., a Colorado-based nationwide restaurant chain, violated federal law when it fired an employee because of her cystic fibrosis and its treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC said Chipotle subjected Amanda Connell to disability discrimination at its Franklin, Mass., location the day after she arrived at work with a shunt in her arm for the intravenous treatment of cystic fibrosis.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, that malady is an inherited, chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). Advances in research and medical treatments have enhanced and extended life for children and adults, and a key to this life-saving treatment is the ability to provide extended anti-biotic treatments through what is known as a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) - the equivalent of a permanent IV line.
The EEOC's suit said that on March 29, 2012, Connell arrived at work with her arm bandaged to hold the shunt for the PICC line for the first time. Two managers saw it and asked her about it. They fired her the next day, claiming that they had identified her through the store's video system as the employee who was the subject of a recent customer complaint. The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle used the customer's complaint as an excuse to terminate Connell because the company's own time records showed that Connell was not at work at the time indicated in the customer complaint.
Disability discrimination, including discrimination because an employer regards someone as disabled, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-11503, in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for Connell, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent disability discrimination by Chipotle, training on discrimination for its managers and employees, and other relief.
"Firing someone because of her disability, real or imagined, is against federal law," said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District, whose jurisdiction includes Massachusetts. "This agency will vigorously prosecute cases where employers make negative employment decisions due to improper stereotyping of medical conditions."
Markus L. Penzel, trial attorney in the EEOC's Boston Area Office, added, "Employees with disabilities deserve understanding and cooperation, not pink slips."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.