IM this article to a friend!

May 17, 2004


From: EEOC - May 17, 2004

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
For Immediate Release May 17, 2004 (Houston, Texas)
      Jim Sacher
      Regional Attorney
      Phone: (713) 209-3398
      Rose Adewale-Mendes
      Supervisory Trial Attorney
      Phone: (713) 209-3404
      Aimee McFerren
      Trial Attorney
      Phone: (713) 209-3323
      TTY: (713) 209-3439 ______________________________________________________________________________
Suit Says Baytown Restaurant Rejected Deaf Teen

HOUSTON – – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has sued a Baytown Jack in the Box restaurant, charging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) when it rejected then 17-year-old Alfonso Cruz for hire in a cook’s position. Mr. Cruz is profoundly deaf. The EEOC’s suit, Civil Action No. H-04-1972, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleges that Jack in the Box discriminated against Mr. Cruz when Store Manager Robin Thompson refused to hire Mr. Cruz for a cook’s position because a Human Resources directive mandated that all Jack in the Box employees must be able to speak and understand English. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Thompson further explained she did not hire the deaf teenager because “due to the complexity of the operations, she did not want to set him up to fail.” However, after being rejected by Jack in the Box, Mr. Cruz was hired as a fryer cook at another fast food restaurant not owned or operated by Jack in the Box.

“EEOC tried to work with Jack in the Box to resolve this case without resorting to litigation. The law is clear that employees and applicants must be judged strictly on their ability to do the job, rather than on myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with disability,” said Mike Fetzer, the Acting District Director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

The ADA prohibits employment discrimination based on a person’s physical or mental disability. The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable a qualified individual with a disability to work.

“Qualified individuals with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to work as everyone else, including the freedom to compete and excel in the workplace,” said Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s Regional Attorney in Houston. “They should go as far as their talents and abilities will take them.”

The EEOC filed suit after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination as well as back wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and other relief for Mr. Cruz.

San Diego-based Jack in the Box, Inc. is among the nation's leading fast-food hamburger chains, with more than 1,950 quick-serve restaurants in 17 states and over 45,000 employees.

In addition to enforcing the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission, including training, mediation and enforcement initiatives, is available on the agency’s web site at