Owner Fired Employee for Taking Prescribed Medications for Bipolar Disorder, Federal Agency Charges

EEOC, ATLANTA РHester Foods, Inc., the operator of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise in Dublin, Ga., violated federal law by discriminating against an employee because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Hester Foods’ owner violated federal law by discharging restaurant manager Cynthia Dunson in July 2015 when he found out that she was taking medications prescribed by her doctor for bipolar disorder.

KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken in Dublin. GA sued for disability discrimination by EEOC (photo RestaurantsFastFood.blogspot.com)

KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken in Dublin. GA sued for disability discrimination by EEOC (photo RestaurantsFastFood.blogspot.com)

The restaurant owner referred to Dunson’s medications in obscene terms, the EEOC said, and made her destroy her medications by flushing them down a toilet at the restaurant. When Dunson later told the owner that she planned to continue taking the medications per her doctor’s orders, the owner told her not to return to work and fired her.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hester Foods, Inc. d/b/a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-000340-DHB-BKE) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Dunson, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Managers and owners cannot force employees to forego medical care or prescribed medications to keep their job,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

EEOC - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, “Whether an employee works for a large corporation or a local restaurant, she has a right to be protected from discriminatory actions by employers. We want employers of all sizes to understand their duties under the law and for employees to report such actions when they occur.”

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