Papa Johns International Inc. has agreed to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit for $175,000, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit was originally filed by the EEOC in May, after Michael Barnes, a legally blind man, was fired from Papa Johns after the pizza chain allegedly denied his accommodation request to bring his service dog to his job site.
According to the original lawsuit, Barnes was hired in Athens, Georgia in 2020, and then told he was unable to start his job until the company reviewed his accommodation request to bring his service dog to work. After Barnes’ request was denied, he was terminated before starting a single shift. According to the EEOC, Papa Johns’ actions are in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which states that service animals are considered a “reasonable accommodation” but that an employee must request that the animal be present.
Under the two-year consent decree, Papa Johns has agreed to not only to pay out the settlement agreement to Barnes, but also to train its employees on the ADA, review its employment policies, and allow the EEOC to monitor complaints of discrimination or retaliation.
“Not allowing blind and visually impaired people to travel to and from work in the way that affords them confidence and independence is akin to telling sighted workers who rely on the flexibility and independence of driving that they may not travel to work by car,” Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced.”
This is not the first time the pizza chain has faced legal scrutiny on the basis of discrimination; in 2017 Papa Johns settled for $125,000 in a EEOC lawsuit for terminating an employee with an intellectual disability. The pizza industry is no stranger to allegations of discrimination by the visually impaired community. In 2019, a legally blind man won a case that went all the way up to the Supreme Court requiring the Domino’s website to be accessible to the disabled, which led to the Congressional introduction of the Online Accessibility Act.
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