Popeye's Chicken Franchisee to Pay $25,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Longview Fast Food Restaurant Refused to Hire HIV-Positive Applicant Despite His Qualifications, Federal Agency Charged
TYLER, Texas - Famous Chicken of Shreveport, L.L.C. a Popeye's Chicken franchisee, has agreed to pay $25,000 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 an HIV-positive applicant because of his disability at a Longview, Texas Popeye's location.
The EEOC charged in its suit against Famous Chicken that the general manager of a Longview, Texas Popeye's restaurant refused to hire Noah Crawford for a position, despite his qualifications and experience, upon learning that he was HIV-positive. According to the EEOC's suit, when he applied with the Popeye's franchise, Crawford had years of prior experience working at a fast food restaurant, including experience as a general manager. In response to the question on the application, "reason for leaving" his most recent job, Crawford wrote, "medical." Crawford reported to the EEOC that after submitting the application, he was interviewed by the general manager and asked to disclose the "medical" condition referenced. When Crawford stated that he had HIV, he was immediately informed that he could not work for Popeye's given his condition. According to the Food and Drug Administration's Food Code, HIV is not listed as a disease transmissible through the food supply.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring. The ADA also prohibits employers from making pre-employment, disability-related inquiries of job applicants. The EEOC filed suit in October 2011, (Case No. 6:13-cv-00664 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.,
Under the terms of the three-year consent decree settling the case, Popeye's will pay $25,000 in relief to Crawford. In addition, Popeye's has agreed to provide training for all managers, area supervisors and human resources professionals on the ADA. The training will include instruction on medical related inquiries and pre-employment inquiries using the EEOC's "Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act" as a training guide.
"The ADA is intended to deter employers from jumping to conclusions about an applicant's ability to perform a job," said EEOC trial attorney Joel Clark. "In-house education on the ADA can be effective toward eliminating assumptions and fostering a more inclusive work force."
Public resources such as "How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers," published by the EEOC for public reference, clarify that unfounded fears about HIV itself, or others' reactions to it, do not justify denying hire to a qualified applicant.
"Due to the healthy growth of franchiseson our national business landscape, it is very important to ensure that the many new and developing managers are oriented early about proper interviewing inquiries and potentially unlawful hiring considerations," added Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "We can all benefit from the advantages of the expanding food service industry provided that the businesses are built on equal opportunity."
Famous Chicken of Shreveport also owns and operates chicken franchise restaurants in Laredo, El Paso and Killeen, Texas, and Louisiana.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.