Subway Franchise To Pay $166,500 for Disability Bias

On July 27, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a favorable jury verdict of $166,500 in a disability harassment lawsuit brought against a Subway restaurant franchise, BobRich Enterprises Inc., on behalf of a female manager who was discriminated against and forced to resign because of her hearing impairment (Case No. 3-05-CV-1928M).

The Dallas jury of five women and two men awarded former area supervisor Tammy Gitsham $66,500 for lost wages and emotional harm and an additional $100,000 in punitive damages in EEOC's suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The EEOC charged in the case that Subway Owner Robert Suarez and one of his managers subjected Gitsham to a disability-based hostile work environment, including teasing and name-calling, because she is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids.

EEOC presented evidence that Gitsham was forced to resign her position after both the owner and human resources/training manager repeatedly mocked her privately and in front of other employees, creating a hostile workplace, with taunts such as: "Read My Lips" and "Can you hear me now?" and "You got your ears on?"

"I am very happy with the judgment,” said Gitsham. "It is important for people to realize that they don't have to put up with this type of mean-spirited treatment from business owners. I feel that I can now move on with my life."

According to EEOC, BobRich Enterprises Inc. has owned and operated as many as 20 Subway stores throughout the Dallas metroplex. Gitsham worked as an area supervisor for Subway, managing between five and 10 stores throughout the metroplex during her year and a half of employment at the franchise.

"As our nation observes the 17th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, this case should remind employers of their legal obligation to promote discrimination-free workplaces for people with disabilities," said Robert Canino, EEOC's Dallas regional attorney. "Humiliating an excellent and loyal employee because of a disability is more than just bad behavior, it is bad business. This company should have been as focused on creating a healthy work environment as it was on making a healthy sandwich."

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