EEOC sues Papa Johns for discrimination against blind applicant

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Papa Johns for not allowing a blind job applicant to keep his service dog in the restaurant with him while he worked, according to a Yahoo News report.

Michael Barnes applied for and was hired at an Athens, Georgia Papa John’s, having been told his service animal would not be a problem in the restaurant.

The restaurant later recanted, telling Barnes he could work without his dog, Indie, or be fired. Barnes told restaurant management that he needed the dog to get to and from work and was subsequently fired.

The EEOC is suing on Barnes’ behalf, claiming Papa John’s discriminated against him, who said he didn’t need Indie to work and the dog could be kept away from food and people. The EEOC said Barnes’ request to keep his dog on site is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Employers must evaluate such requests on their individual merits,” Marcus G. Keegan, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a news release from the EEOC. “They may not, as Papa John’s has done, reject such requests based on vague and unspecified ‘health and safety’ concerns.”

The EEOC wants Papa Johns to compensate Barnes for emotional pain, depression and more over his firing.

When Pizza Marketplace reached out to Papa Johns, we received this statement from a spokesperson: “Papa Johns is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive culture for all of our team members, including those with disabilities. We do not discriminate against any team member or applicant on the basis of any characteristic protected by statute or local law. In compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), we make reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is a team member or an applicant, unless undue hardship would result.

This policy governs all aspects of employment, including recruitment, selection, job assignment, compensation, corrective action, termination and access to benefits and training.”

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