Outback Steakhouse’s Metrocenter location in Phoenix is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly firing a waiter because of his disability. The EEOC complaint alleged Outback violated federal discrimination laws when it fired John Woods in January 2010 because of a brain injury sustained before joining Outback.
Woods had worked his way up the ranks as a minor-league umpire until a tragic 2004 car crash in Caracas, Venezuela. The accident left him relearning basic tasks and unable to continue working as an umpire. The long term affects include slowed thinking, impaired speech and require him to wear prism glasses. Outback hired Woods in November of 2009 and he worked there “successfully” as a server for a while. According to the EEOC complaint restaurant management fired him in January 2010 because of problems related to his traumatic brain injury. The EEOC asks the court to award back pay and punitive damages to Woods, and to prohibit Outback from engaging in further disability discrimination.
The bad economy has resulted in a boom of disability cases by the EEOC. With a large available workforce employers are quick to terminate an employee once a disability is discovered. Discrimination under state and federal law is not limited to race, religion or gender. If an employee’s disability is discovered consult with legal counsel on how to comply with federal and state law in accommodating that employee.
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