Papa John's Fires Employee With Down Syndrome: Must Now Make A Lotta Pizza!

An employee of a Papa John’s Pizza in Utah who suffers from Down Syndrome satisfactorily – and happily – did his job for more than five months with “an independently employed and insured job coach to assist him.”

That is, until an operating partner of the company visited the pizza place, saw the employee working with his coach, and ordered him fired.

Nice touch – but illegal under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), according to the EEOC, which sued the pizza place and settled the case.  Papa has to now pay $125,000 — that’s a lotta dough!  (Sorry).

Better get started, Papa!

Papa should have taken off his apron long enough to read this blog.  He would’ve known that you have to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities, and engage in an interactive process to determine if an accommodation is reasonable yet not burdensome.

And Papa has been ordered to throw in some mushrooms, peppers, sausages and extra cheese along with his dough: the consent decree requires it to “review its equal employment opportunity policies, conduct training for management and human resources employees for its restaurants in Utah, and establish a new recruitment program for individuals with disabilities in Utah.”

An EEOC attorney noted that “Employers must understand that they cannot refuse to provide an accommodation to individuals with intellectual disabilities.  … Employers should embrace workers like Scott who work with such joy. I want employers to know that their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation includes allowing a job coach at the workplace, if needed, absent undue hardship.”

Takeaway:  Umm, maybe I’ll have a pretzel and some beer!


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]