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EEOC Sues Cracker Barrel Old Country Store For Disability Discrimination

Linthicum Heights Restaurant Refused to Hire Deaf Applicant, Federal Agency Charges

BALTIMORE - Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. violated federal law when it refused to hire a qualified deaf applicant for a dishwasher position because of his deafness, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced.

According to the EEOC's suit, Cracker Barrel scheduled the applicant for an interview with a store manager for a dishwasher job at its Linthicum Heights, Md., store on about June 16, 2016. The applicant went to the scheduled interview but was told by a different store manager that the designated manager was not there. The EEOC says that the store manager was visibly uncomfortable interacting with the applicant, who tried to communicate with her through written notes; the manager did not write notes back but simply mouthed, "she's not here."

The EEOC charges that the manager refused to interview the applicant, even though Cracker Barrel's policy is that job interviews are to be conducted by any manager available. In July 2016, Cracker Barrel hired three dishwashers who were not deaf to work at its Linthicum Heights store. The EEOC argues that Cracker Barrel failed to hire the applicant because he is deaf.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02674-PX) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"We filed this lawsuit because Cracker Barrel refused to interview or hire a qualified applicant simply because he is deaf." Said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "That is cruel and against federal law."

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, "Hiring decisions should be made based on qualifications, not on fears about or prejudices against people with disabilities. The EEOC will file suit, when necessary, to protect workers from disability discrimination."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC's Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

According to its website, www.crackerbarrel.com, Cracker Barrel and its affiliates operate 653 company-owned Cracker Barrel Old Country Store® locations in 45 states and own the fast-casual Holler and Dash® restaurants.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.