McDonald’s Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

As a McDonald’s franchise recently learned, companies cannot discriminate against individuals with disabilities in the application process, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, and other terms of employment. Moreover, employers are required to offer reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities when doing so would not result in an “undue hardship.” The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act both provide these protections to individuals with disabilities.

Cheese burger

EEOC v. McDonald’s Corporation, et al.

Plaintiff, a man who is deaf, applied for a vacant position at the McDonald’s located in Belton, Missouri. The gentleman had experience working at a McDonald’s in Louisiana as a cook and clean-up team member. The restaurant initially scheduled Plaintiff for an interview. When company’s hiring personnel learned the applicant was deaf and required an interpreter for the interview, McDonald’s mysteriously lost all interest in hiring the applicant. However, the franchise continued to interview other employees, and eventually hired someone else for the position.

Not interviewing an applicant because he is deaf is a textbook example of disability discrimination and failure to reasonable accommodate. When McDonald’s learned the individual was deaf, it had a legal duty to take affirmative steps to accommodate the applicant’s hearing difficulties. It cannot simply throw the application in the trash and move on to the next applicant. The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the company in December 2015, claiming disability discrimination. This month, the parties entered into a consent decree, where McDonald’s agreed to pay the applicant $56,500 in monetary damages, among other forms of relief.

Keep in mind, there is a question whether the company obtaining an interpreter and employing a deaf employee would impose an undue hardship on the company. In making this determining, you take into account the employer’s size, financial resources, and the structure of the organization. Thus, if the two-employee mom and pop burger joint does not hire a deaf employee, it may have an argument that doing so would be an undue hardship due to all of the tasks that require fully-functional hearing. However, a company the size of McDonald’s, which has an abundant amount of employees in each store performing different tasks, would have no such argument.

If you think that you have been discriminated against based on a disability, contact an employment attorney as soon as possible.