Human Resources News & Insights

EEOC makes $56K example of employer over deaf applicant: What went wrong?

Here’s an expensive reminder that job applicants — and not just employees — are also protected by the ADA. 

The EEOC recently filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s Corp. and McDonald’s Restaurants of Missouri, accusing a Belton, MO, restaurant of discriminating against a job applicant because he was deaf.

The Belton McDonald’s had an open position for a cook, and a deaf man, who had prior experience as a cook at another McDonald’s branch, applied.

When the man, who is unable to hear or speak, notified the restaurant manager that he would bring his American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for the interview, the manager canceled the interview, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC then said the restaurant continued to interview and hire new workers, despite the man’s attempts to reschedule the interview.

The EEOC claimed the restaurant’s conduct violated the ADA. It said the law requires employers to seek out reasonable accommodations, and provide them when available, to deaf and hearing-impaired employees and applicants.

It said working with deaf applicants’ ASL interpreters is key to providing them with equal opportunities to compete for jobs.

Rather than fight the lawsuit, the McDonald’s decided to settle to the tune of $56,500.

The restaurant also agreed to:

  • make sure managers are trained on the ADA’s requirements
  • provide reasonable accommodations to disabled applicants and employees
  • maintain a phone line that applicants can call to request accommodations, and
  • submit annual compliance reports to the EEOC.
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