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The Cheesecake Factory to Pay $15,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Federal Agency Says Restaurant Changes That Result From Suit Will Benefit Deaf Employees

The Cheesecake Factory and its wholly owned subsidiary will pay $15,000 and implement changes to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced.

According to the EEOCs suit, The Cheesecake Factory's Seattle restaurant failed to provide an effective accommodation for Oleg Ivanov, who is deaf and was a newly-hired dishwasher, then subsequently fired him for issues associated with his disability. The agency's investigation found that The Cheesecake Factory denied Ivanov's requests for orientation training with either closed captioned video or an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

The EEOC alleged in its suit that the company's refusal to accommodate Ivanov violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense. It is also illegal to punish an employee with a disability for requesting a reasonable accommodation. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. The Cheesecake Factory, Inc. and The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, Inc., 2:16-CV-1942-JLR.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

As part of a two-year consent decree, The Cheesecake Factory will pay $15,000 to Ivanov for back pay and compensatory damages, and has agreed to provide closed captioning for the training and orientation videos that are required viewing for new hires. The company will also provide more detailed descriptions to managers and employees on how the company is to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities in the future.

"We are pleased that The Cheesecake Factory has agreed to work with the EEOC to help dismantle barriers that individuals with disabilities face in the workplace," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "The changes will help future deaf applicants and employees at The Cheesecake Factory."

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley added, "All Mr. Ivanov wanted was the opportunity to work at The Cheesecake Factory on a level playing field with hearing employees, with accessible training on how to clock in for his shifts and how to use the online scheduling system. These changes should help alleviate the isolation that a deaf employee can experience in the workplace, and equip the employee with the basic tools to succeed."

According to company information, the Cheesecake Factory Inc., based in Calabasas Hills, Calif., employs more than 37,000 people in 37 different states and had over $1.9 billion in revenue from its operations in 2014, the year in which Ivanov worked at the company's Seattle restaurant.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. .