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Verdicts & Settlements

Pittsburgh-area Olive Garden to Pay $30k Disability Discrimination Settlement

— April 11, 2024

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had earlier alleged that a general manager at the Pittsburgh-area Olive Garden franchised had asked a job applicant “illegal” questions about their disability and its effects.

The owner of a Pittsburgh-area Olive Garden will pay $30,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to CBS News, the federal agency filed its complaint against the franchise’s owner—GMRI Inc.—after a general manager purportedly asked “illegal” questions while interview a person with disabilities who had applied for a bussing position.

The general manager had, for instance, allegedly asked the applicant what “was wrong” with him, and how “bad” the disability was.

In its lawsuit, the E.E.O.C. said that the general manager then ended the interview early, and indicated that he would not hire the man due both to his disability and information gathered from the “illegal” questions.

The complaint argued that such discrimination is typically prohibited under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under Title I, most employers cannot discriminate job-seekers who have disabilities, unless their disability would effectively prevent them from fulfilling essential work obligations.

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The Olive Garden, and its owner, agreed to settle the claim before it moved to trial.

As part of the agreement, the Olive Garden will pay $30,000 in compensation to the job applicant, and has promised to provide “mandatory” A.D.A.-related training to the general manager identified in the lawsuit.

“In addition to paying $30,000 to the job applicant with a disability, Olive Garden is prohibited from engaging in disability discrimination, conducting unlawful disability-related inquiries or medical examination of job applicants, or taking employment actions based on information obtained through such unlawful inquiries in the future,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a statement.

“Workers with disabilities provide invaluable contributions to their employers and to the American economy when given a fair opportunity to show their job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities,” E.E.O.C. Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence in a press release.

“The E.E.O.C. is strongly committed to protecting disabled workers from job discrimination, including illegal disability-related inquiries, which often produce employment decisions rooted in prejudice, implicit bias, unfounded fears or assumptions, or a desire to evade the legal duty to provide reasonable accommodations,” the agency said.

An E.E.O.C.’s district-level administrator provided further comment on the settlement.

“The promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that every worker, from the part-time employee earning minimum wage to the corporate CEO, will be treated by employers based on their individual merits and not rejected or dismissed based on their disabilities,” said E.E.O.C. Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson. The EEOC and its employees will continue to strive every day to make that promise a reality.”

In its press release, the E.E.O.C. says that the settlement—for which the court has already approved a consent decree—was reached through the agency’s pre-litigation conciliation process.


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