A man who received awards and accolades for his work as a McDonald’s cook has been fired after 37 years working for the fast-food giant, federal officials said.

Two months after someone else bought the Deptford, New Jersey, McDonald’s franchise, he fired him because he has autism, according to a lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

However, firing the cook violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal agency said in a Dec. 16 news release.

Now McDonald’s franchisee JDKD Enterprises, L.P., has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle the disability discrimination lawsuit, the EEOC announced.

“The ADA protects individuals with autism spectrum disorder, and the EEOC is fully committed to vigorously enforcing the ADA requirement that employers reasonably accommodate their workers with disabilities in the absence of undue hardship,” it said in a statement. Debra Lawrence, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

McClatchy News contacted an attorney representing the franchisee and McDonald’s on December 19 for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

The man’s long career at McDonald’s

In 1981, the man began working at McDonald’s as a cook before joining the Deptford restaurant in 2008, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

His autism spectrum disorder is “obvious from the way he communicates” and “obvious” while he was working, the lawsuit reads. He describes how he can make it difficult for her to control the volume of his voice and “engage in what is known as self-stimulatory behavior, including rocking back and forth.”

The complaint says you may raise your voice if you become “agitated.”

Autism is considered a spectrum disorder because symptoms vary greatly from person to person, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Before JDKD Enterprises took ownership of the McDonald’s in Deptford in March 2018, the man was recognized for his “excellent” work as a cook for more than three decades, the EEOC complaint states.

On May 14, 2018, the cook’s “autism spectrum disorder caused him to become agitated and raise his voice,” according to the complaint.

The McDonald’s franchise holder responded by firing him that same day, according to the EEOC. Meanwhile, the worker continued to be qualified to perform his job, authorities appealed.

The franchisee could have tried to offer him an adaptation, but he didn’t, according to the lawsuit.

His firing caused him “emotional distress, pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, shame, frustration, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life,” the lawsuit states.

The court agreement

In addition to paying $100,000 to settle the lawsuit, JDKD Enterprises agreed to take further steps to prevent future disability discrimination, according to the statement.

The McDonald’s franchisee will train management to respond to requests for accommodations and will report regularly to the EEOC, the statement said.

“Ensuring that all employees, especially managers, receive adequate training on their obligations under the ADA, including their duty to engage in good faith and diligent communications with their disabled employees regarding accommodation needs, is a wise business practice. and what needs to be done,” Jamie Williamson, EEOC Philadelphia district director, said in a statement.

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