A disability discrimination case has been settled by the EEOC on behalf of Cynthia Dunson, who worked for KFC franchise Hester Foods, Inc. The franchise has been ordered to pay Dunson $30,000, as well as implement training and practices which will prevent future discrimination from occurring in their workplaces.
Dunson was originally hired in March 2015 as a crew member at the Dublin, Georgia location. She was promoted to a Shift Manager shortly after beginning her employment. Problems didn't arise until July 23rd, 2015 when the franchise owner asked to speak with Dunson after a team meeting. She let him know that she would have to hurry because she had to leave to go to an appointment with her therapist. Upon hearing this information, the owner began to pry as to why she was seeing a therapist. Dunson explained that she was under the doctor's care as well as taking prescribed medications for bipolar disorder – he then inquired which medications she was taking. Dunson complied with his questioning and told him her medications. The owner reacted by telling her, “You can't take that s*** and work here.” He then demanded that she flush her medications down the toilet, even instructing another manager to follow her into the restroom and ensure that she actually disposed of them.
Later that day, Dunson told her therapist what had happened. At that time she also disclosed to the therapist that the owner told her she “needs Jesus, not medication”. Dunson reported to work that evening, and was met by the owner who pointed his finger in her face and angrily said, “You are on that s***.” Dunson refuted his accusation, telling him that she got rid of the medication as he instructed her and therefore wasn't on it. He replied that she “better not be”.
Disability discrimination law.
The following day, Dunson visited her doctor's office. There she was told that she needed to take her medication again, as it was dangerous to abruptly stop taking them. The doctor paid for replacement medication and took Dunson off of work for the remainder of the weekend. The doctor also had Dunson call the franchise owner while she was there to inform him of her upcoming absence from work and explain the necessity of her medication – he reacted by becoming angry and chastised her for “letting” her medical providers “tell her she needed to take that s***” and for “letting” them take her out of work. Dunson concluded the call by stating she intended to follow the doctor's orders. Within a few minutes, the owner called Dunson back and said she “could not come back to work if [she] was going to let them put things in her head”.
Working from home with a disability.
A few days later, Dunson's husband went to the restaurant in her place to return her keys and uniform, and to pick up her final paycheck.
The EEOC asserted that Dunson was “unlawfully terminated by Defendant because of her disability and/or because she was regarded as a person with a disability due to her impairment and use of legally prescribed medications.” They also asserted that the unlawful employment practices were “intentional” and “were done with malice and/or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of Dunson”.