The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
9-29-09

EEOC SUES 99 RESTAURANT AND PUB FRANCHISE FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION

Restaurant Fired Server Who Complained About Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

PHILADELPIA - A Trevose, Pa., restaurant franchise violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it fired an employee because he complained about harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

A restaurant manager repeatedly harassed T.J. Cahill based on his perceived disability, the EEOC charges in its lawsuit against 99 West Inc., doing business as 99 Restaurant and Pub, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No.09-cv-04422 . Cahill has a speech impediment and underbite that affect his ability to articulate certain sounds and words. He received exemplary performance evaluations when he worked as a server at the chain's Philadelphia facility. After he transferred to the franchise's Trevose facility, however, the restaurant manager regularly used demeaning language to refer to Cahill, including calling him "slow" and "Re-J," which meant "Retarded T.J." She also used derogatory sign language gestures to refer to Cahill as a “retard.”

Cahill made repeated complaints to the general manager about the harassment, but management failed to stop it. Instead, the restaurant issued Cahill unjustified reprimands and then terminated him in retaliation for his complaints, the EEOC charged.

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on an individual's actual or perceived disability. It also forbids employers from retaliating against people who complain about disability discrimination. The EEOC filed this lawsuit only after its Philadelphia office completed an investigation into the discrimination charge and attempted to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief to end the discriminatory practices, plus back pay and compensatory and punitive damages to compensate Cahill for his monetary losses and emotional pain and suffering.

"It is not just cruel when a manager repeatedly mocks an employee because of a disability, whether actual or perceived -- it is also a blatant violation of the ADA," said Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on September 29, 2009.

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