December 30, 2016
A 25-year-old autistic man in Illinois is suing a local Chick-fil-A restaurant, and the fast-food chain’s parent company, Chick-fil-A Inc., claiming he was denied a job solely because of his disability.
James Kwon of Orland Park, Ill., claims the branch manager at his town’s Chick-fil-A told his job coach that “Chick-fil-A was not interested in hiring people with disabilities” and “people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-fil-A,” according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division.
Kwon’s attorney, Jin-Ho Chung of Equip for Equality, which advocates for people with disabilities in the state, says Chick-fil-A violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by stating it would not hire any person with a disability, by not making an individualized assessment of Kwon’s ability to perform the work, and by failing to examine whether any accommodation would address Chick-fil-A’s concerns about Kwon’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job.
According to the current lawsuit, Kwon worked in 2013 at another restaurant as part of a work study program. His duties there “included cleaning menus, cleaning windows and entry doors, vacuuming and sweeping floors, busing and cleaning tables and booths, taking out the garbage, and cleaning walls and ledges.”
That restaurant supervisor said “James performed his job duties diligently and capably,” Chung claimed in the lawsuit. The job ended when the work study program was over.
Kwon then worked with a job coach in hopes of landing a fulltime job, and in the summer of 2014 he and his coach went to the Chick-fil-A in Ormond Park to apply for employment similar to his job in the work study program.
Kwon did not complete his formal work application because of the branch manager’s statements, according to the lawsuit.
A representative for the chicken sandwich chain provided the following statement from Kevin Bulmann, Owner/Operator of the Orland Park Chick-fil-A, regarding the lawsuit.
“Chick-fil-A at Orland Park is aware of Mr. Kwon’s lawsuit and strenuously denies violating any laws. Our restaurant does not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated Mr. Kwon’s allegations and did not find cause to believe that discrimination occurred.”
Chung says Kwon suffered lost wages and emotional distress and is seeking compensation for the salary and benefits he lost and will continue to lose; back pay with interest;=, compensatory and punitive damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation.