Papa John’s Pizza Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Settled for $175,000

Disability discrimination laws protect blind employees accommodations for service dogs. Helmer Friedman LLP vigorously protects the rights of all employees.

Federal Agency Charges Pizza Chain Failed to Accommodate and Fired Blind Employee Because of Disability Settled

“Congress passed Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remove the barriers to employment faced by workers with disabilities, and for Mr. Barnes, his service dog does just that,” said Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office. “The EEOC will continue its fight to ensure that all employees, regardless of disability status, have an equal opportunity to earn the privileges and benefits of employment.”

Papa John’s Pizza, an international chain of pizza restaurants based in Louisville, Kentucky, has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by agreeing to pay $175,000 and provide other relief. The lawsuit was filed after the company failed to accommodate and fired a blind employee because of his disability.

In early 2020, Michael Barnes, who is legally blind and relies on his service dog for his commute, applied for a job at his local Papa John’s restaurant in Athens, Georgia, after hearing from a friend that the company hired individuals with vision impairments. Barnes was hired but could not start until his accommodation request to bring his service dog was formally granted by Papa John’s. However, the company denied Barnes’s accommodation request and fired him before he worked a single shift.

Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “The ADA prohibits employers from terminating employees because of a disability and denying them equal employment opportunities,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

“Not allowing blind and visually impaired people to travel to and from work in the way that affords them confidence and independence is akin to telling sighted workers who rely on the flexibility and independence of driving that they may not travel to work by car,” said Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel. “We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced.”

Under the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit, Papa John’s will pay $175,000 in monetary damages to Barnes, train its employees on the ADA, review its employment policies, and allow the EEOC to monitor complaints of discrimination or retaliation.

“The EEOC will continue its fight to ensure that all employees, regardless of disability status, have an equal opportunity to earn the privileges and benefits of employment,” said Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office.

“We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced,” said Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel.

“The Commission is steadfast in its commitment to making sure all employees have an equal opportunity to earn and enjoy the privileges and benefits of employment, regardless of their disability status,” added Darrell Graham, district director of the EEOC’s Atlanta office.

For more information on disability discrimination, please visit

Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act

Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act protects from retaliation.

New California Law Makes It Easier for Employees to Establish Retaliation Claims for Alleged Labor Code Violations

CA SB 497 Retaliation Law 2024

On October 8, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed Senate Bill No. 497, officially establishing the “Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act.” The act aims to protect employees who engage in certain protected activities under specified sections of the California Labor Code from experiencing any adverse employment action within 90 days of such activity. If an employee does face such action, the act sets up a “rebuttable presumption of retaliation” against the employer. The Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act will take effect on January 1, 2024.

Under the new law, the burden of proof for showing that the adverse employment action was based on a legitimate non-retaliatory reason will lie with the employer. Additionally, an employee who wins the case will be entitled to civil penalties for each violation. Suppose an employer is found to have retaliated against an employee for Section 1102.5 protected activity. In that case, the employer may be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 per employee for each violation. This civil penalty is already available for Section 98.6 protected activity.

The new presumption standard and civil penalties remind employers in California that they must take employee complaints seriously and avoid any actions against an employee that could be considered unlawful retaliation.

Religious Harassment by Chipotle Manager

Religious Discrimination & Harassment is illegal. Helmer Friedman LLP Los Angeles lawyers represent people harassed because of his or her religion.

Areej Saifan, a 19-year-old Muslim employee at a Chipotle restaurant in Kansas was subjected to religious harassment by her supervisor, Kevin Silva Garcia, who repeatedly asked her to remove her hijab. The harassment continued for several weeks, with the assistant manager even pulling off the her hijab, and exposing her hair. Despite reporting the behavior to a shift supervisor, no action was taken to address the harassment, leading the employee to resign. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle on behalf of the employee, seeking backpay and other damages. This kind of harassment is unacceptable and goes against the right to work free from discrimination based on religious beliefs and practices. Chipotle must take responsibility for the actions of its employees and ensure that such behavior is not tolerated in the workplace.

School District Fails to Protect Employee from Racist Attacks by Parents

Internet troll or cyberbully posting hate speech on Social Media, in comments online.

Black Ex-employee Sues Rockwood for Discrimination

Brittany Hogan, the former Director of Educational Equity and Diversity at Rockwood School District, filed a lawsuit in February 2021, alleging that she was subjected to racial abuse by parents and that the administration ignored her complaints. Hogan served the district for eight school years but resigned in April 2021.

The lawsuit claims that Hogan received threatening messages through various channels, including email, phone, and social media, after promoting an anti-racism book called “Stamped” in December 2020. While the book was part of the district’s One Read program, Hogan did not choose it. District officials brought her in to discuss ways to promote the book, but Hogan faced backlash as a result.

The suit said Hogan began receiving racist messages through the district’s Twitter account, with one message saying Hogan and another Black Rockwood official should “work at a different school district where the students were Black.”

In January 2021, Hogan and her secretary began receiving threatening and profane phone calls and email messages, the suit said. One caller demanded that Hogan’s secretary disclose Hogan’s physical location. An email from a parent read, “I hope you sleep well at night …” which the lawsuit claims implied that Hogan might not be safe at night.

The lawsuit said Hogan’s secretary notified administrators about the threatening messages. It also said administrators took no action to protect Hogan, who at the time worked at an unsecured building near one of the district’s middle schools that made her vulnerable to possible altercations.

In February, a human resource employee told Hogan in a telephone call that things had become “out of control.” Still, the lawsuit said she received no assistance or written response.

On Feb. 4, 2021, Hogan emailed her supervisors to tell them she would not participate in the scheduled Feb. 10, 2021, reading of “Stamped” on Zoom with the community. In the email, she said she was being “trolled,” or harassed, by white supremacists on the Twitter diversity account, according to the lawsuit.

She also wrote in that email, “As the only Black woman in district leadership, I am concerned and uncomfortable of how quickly I’ve become the scapegoat of white rage,” the lawsuit said.

During a superintendent’s cabinet meeting in the first week of February 2021, copies of the threats Hogan had received on Twitter were given to every cabinet member. The lawsuit said the only action taken was on Feb. 8, 2021, when then-Superintendent Mark Miles told Hogan to block Twitter accounts harassing her.

Hogan’s lawsuit against the district alleges that they violated her rights by allowing race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The case lists several incidents throughout the 2020-2021 school year, supposedly demonstrating that Rockwood officials sidelined Hogan, making it impossible for her to perform her job effectively. The lawsuit claims the district created a hostile work environment, leading to Hogan’s constructive discharge.

Following the lawsuit, the Rockwood School District settled for $175,000 through an insurance policy, which included attorney fees and other costs. Hogan’s attorney, Javad Khazaeli, expressed Hogan’s desire to move on from the situation and focus on future endeavors.

Employer Coerced Kickbacks from Employees after Wage Action

Workplace violations, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation lawyers Helmer Friedman LLP.

Sparklean Laundry Fined Nearly $400K for Labor Violations

A real estate company, Sparklean Laundry, was found guilty of coercing its employees to pay kickbacks on wages that were initially recovered for them. The company was ordered to pay over $281,000 in damages for this act, and an additional $100,000 for retaliating against its employees who were exercising their labor rights. Benjamin Piper, who owned Fox Real Estate Group, Inc., the parent company of Sparklean Laundry, was also ordered to pay the damages.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the order, which resulted from an earlier case where Fox Real Estate Group, Inc. refused to pay overtime to about 80 employees in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA is a law that protects workers against certain unfair pay practices, and it sets out labor regulations regarding employment across states, including minimum wages, overtime pay requirements, and child labor limitations. Passed in 1938, the FLSA is one of the most critical laws that employers need to understand, as it sets out a wide array of regulations for dealing with employees, whether salaried or paid by the hour.

After an investigation by the Department of Labor, Fox Real Estate Group, Inc. agreed to pay back the overtime wages it had refused to pay earlier. However, the company demanded kickbacks from the employees later and submitted fraudulent receipts purporting to show that the employees had received their recovered wages. The company also threatened the employees.

“Workplace retaliation is intolerable and illegal,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The Department of Labor will use all of its tools to combat retaliation, including through requiring employers who retaliate to compensate workers above and beyond the wages their workers are owed.”

The Department of Labor recovered thousands of overtime wages for the employees, and one of the employees received nearly $7,000. However, the court order is making the company pay double the amount of wages to the employees. As a result, the employee will receive a total of nearly $14,000.

Employers and workers can call division staff confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

“This was a clear case where punitive damages were appropriate against the employer, which both violated federal law and broke its promises to the department,” Pilotin added.

Physical and Verbal Harassment

Sexual harassment causes long term damage to the victims psyche.

Sun Chemical Sued for Failure to Correct Racial Discrimination

An employee at Sun Chemical manufacturing facility in Kansas City, Missouri, was subjected to racial harassment by a coworker. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that the victim faced verbal and physical harassment, including being called the N-word, which was known to other employees. Yet, the management failed to take corrective actions against the harasser. To make matters worse, when the employee complained about the harassment, Sun Chemical issued him a written warning for using profanity against the harasser. This is unacceptable. The lawsuit filed against Sun Chemical demands justice for the victim and action from the company to prevent future racial discrimination. We must stand together against racial harassment in the workplace.

Walmart Pays $87,500 to Settle Unlawful Retaliation Lawsuit

Walmart settles Retaliation Lawsuit.

Two Adult Children Were Unlawfully Rejected for Jobs Because of Mother’s Prior Sex Discrimination Complaint

A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Wal-Mart Associates, Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores East, Inc., L.P. (doing business as Walmart stores in Albuquerque) for retaliation. The lawsuit claimed that Walmart Store #835 on Eubank in Northeast Albuquerque refused to hire Ramona Bradford’s adult son and daughter for entry-level positions because Ms. Bradford had filed a sex discrimination charge against Wal-Mart with the EEOC.

Retaliation against employees because of their opposition to discrimination or participation in protected activity, such as filing a discrimination charge, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC also alleged that Ramona Bradford was a victim of retaliation because her two adult children were being denied employment because she was complaining about discrimination and her charge filing.

The consent decree settling the suit provides for monetary relief for the Bradfords, as well as an injunction prohibiting retaliatory practices, training for managerial employees on retaliation, and posting a notice advising employees of their rights under Title VII.

Retaliation continues to be a high priority for the EEOC, which receives more retaliation charges than any other kind of discrimination charges. The EEOC is pleased that this case could be resolved for the Bradfords and mandates that Wal-Mart train its managers about retaliation.

Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Race and Religious Harassment at Trucking Company

Constitutional rights lawyers of Helmer Friedman LLP.

Trucking Company Allowed Harassment of Former Employee Because of His Race and Religion, Federal Agency Charges

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Wheeler Trucking for violating federal civil rights laws. The lawsuit alleges that the company subjected an employee at its Lorain County, Ohio location to harassment based on his religion and race. The former employee was also denied a religious accommodation he requested, and faced retaliation when he complained about the harassment. Ultimately, he was separated from employment.

According to the EEOC, Wheeler Trucking personnel frequently and severely harassed the former employee using racial slurs and derogatory terms. The former employee complained multiple times, but the company failed to take meaningful action to address the harassment or prevent future incidents. When the former employee spoke out against the discrimination and harassment, the company’s treatment of him worsened, leading to his separation from employment.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits retaliation, race discrimination, and religious discrimination. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (EEOC v. Wheeler Trucking d/b/a Wheeler Trucking, Inc. and Wheeler Logistics, Inc., Case No. 1:23-cv-01874) after the EEOC’s attempt to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process failed.

ResourceOne Sued for Harassment Based on Genetic Information, Race, National Origin

Hostile Work Environment | Workplace bullying attorneys Helmer Friedman LLP.

EEOC Charges Printing Distribution Company Supervisor Called Employee ‘Ape,’ ‘Congo,’ and Other Slurs After Viewing DNA Results

A printing distribution company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is facing charges of racial and national origin discrimination after a supervisor allegedly harassed an employee with derogatory slurs like “ape” and “Congo” upon learning about her DNA ancestry results. The commercial printing, direct mail, and direct marketing company, Worldwide Printing and Distribution, Inc., doing business as ResourceOne, is accused of violating the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by creating a hostile work environment for the employee and failing to take corrective action despite her repeated complaints.

The incident highlights the importance of protecting employees from discrimination and harassment based on their genetic information, national origin, or race. It is essential for employers to foster a safe and inclusive workplace free from offensive name-calling and slurs that can create a toxic work environment. As more people choose to learn about their ancestry through DNA testing, it is crucial to ensure that this information is not misused to create an unlawful environment at work.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Worldwide Printing and Distribution, Inc., seeking monetary relief for the victim and an order prohibiting similar discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The EEOC emphasizes the need for employers to protect their workers from all forms of harassment and discrimination, including those based on genetic information, national origin, and race.

Sexual Harassment and Retaliation of Tenants

Sexual harassment retaliation by landlord.

Dad, Son Refused to Fix Tenant’s Gas Leak After She Reported Sexual Harassment

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Javier Salazar Jr., Javier Salazar Sr., and Ricardo Covarrubias, a maintenance worker, the manager, and the owner, respectively, of rental properties in Bakersfield, California, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Javier Salazar, Jr., a maintenance worker, sexually harassed a female tenant from December 2018 through March 2019 by repeatedly asking the tenant to engage in sexual acts with him, asking her to be in a relationship with him, describing the sexual acts he wished to engage in with her and persistently commenting on her appearance.

The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.

According to the complaint, on two occasions, Javier Salazar Jr. touched the tenant’s body without her consent. He secretly took digital photographs of framed print pictures in her home of her and her daughter. The tenant reported Salazar Jr.’s conduct to Salazar Sr., who was both the property manager and Salazar Jr.’s father. After she reported the harassment and threatened to contact a lawyer or the police if it continued, the Salazars refused to fix a leaking gas line in her dwelling, causing her to go without heat for one month and consequently forcing her to move out. The complaint also alleges that the property owner, Covarrubias, is vicariously liable for the Salazars’ conduct because they were his agents when they engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation.

“Sexual harassment in rental housing preys on tenants who are especially vulnerable, including those who rely on their housing provider for critical maintenance services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.”

“For four months this tenant refused the repeated sexual advances by the maintenance worker at her rental home, and when she reported the sexual harassment, she faced retaliation,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “The actions of Salazar Jr. and the failure or refusal of Salazar Sr. and Covarrubias to act on the tenant’s behalf caused her harm and distress. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold accountable any landlord who enables or engages in sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”

“Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with DOJ to enforce the law and protect tenants.”

The lawsuit arose from a complaint the former tenant filed with HUD. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination, and the matter was referred to the Justice Department. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victim and a court order barring future discrimination.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is part of the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide. The initiative aims to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Justice Department has filed 34 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment by Javier Salazar Jr., or at rental dwellings owned or managed by Ricardo Covarrubias or Javier Salazar Sr., or who have other information that may be relevant to this case should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at, or submit a report online.