Job-hunting can be difficult enough, even with prior experience. Applying for jobs can be tiring between asking if a company is hiring, filling out numerous applications, and going through the interview process only to find out the company is not hiring at that time. For workers with disabilities, the job hunt can be even more difficult. An applicant for a fast food job claims he was discriminated against and discouraged from applying because he was disabled.
James Kwon is 25-year-old and has autism. As part of a program, he employed in a work-study job in an Illinois restaurant. After the program ended, the restaurant manager indicated Kwon had performed his duties well, with diligence and capability. Kwon's successful work-study job lead him to seek employment with another restaurant, and he began the job search in Orland Park.
When Kwon walked into a Chick-Fil-A restaurant asking for a job application, he was told the manager was not available. Kwon's job coach then approached the restaurant to ask about job opportunities with the restaurant. The manager, Laura Sanchez, reportedly told the job coach that the restaurant was not interested in hiring individuals with disabilities, and that people with disabilities do not succeed at the job.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a qualified individual with a disability cannot be treated unfavorably by an employer because they have a disability. Employers are required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless providing an accommodation would cause undue hardship or significant difficulty.
Kwon has filed a complaint against the restaurant, alleging violations of the ADA. According to Kwon's lawyer, Chick-Fil-A failed to assess Kwon's ability to perform the job, and did not look into whether they would have to make any reasonable accommodations which would allow Kwon to perform the job.
The owner of the Orland Park Chick-Fil-A, Kevin Bulmann, has responded. “Chick-fil-A at Orland Park is aware of Mr. Kwon's lawsuit and strenuously denies violating any laws. Our restaurant does not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.”
Kwon had previously worked at a Bakers Square restaurant in 2013, also in Orland Park. His job with the restaurant included duties such as cleaning windows, vacuuming the floor, busing tables, and taking out the garbage.
Bulmann added a statement that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the allegations and did not find cause that discrimination had occurred. The lawsuit was filed on December 23 last year, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division. Kwon is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.
If you have been denied a job application based on perceived disability, the employer may be violating anti-discrimination laws. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands Illinois employment law. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve and get equal pay and equal treatment under the law.