Cheesecake Factory Sued for Failing to Accommodate Deaf Employee at Seattle Location

two people using sign language to communicate

December 28, 2016
by Andy Jones

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against Cheesecake Factory Inc. on December 20 for firing a deaf man, after refusing to accommodate his auditory disabilities.

"Congress passed the ADA to remove barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from finding and keeping their jobs," EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Damien Lee said in a news release. "Mr. Ivanov was a loyal and motivated worker who needed a basic accommodation in order to succeed at his job."

The Cheesecake Factory’s downtown Seattle location hired Oleg Ivanov in June 2014 for a position as a part-time dish washer. Ivanov requested an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for his initial interview, but the company allegedly declined his request and relied on hand-written interview questions and responses, the lawsuit states.

Similarly, the Cheesecake Factory allegedly declined to provide him a closed-captioned version of the company’s required training videos, which, among other things, explained its online scheduling and timekeeping processes.

Despite being unable to check his weekly work schedule, Ivanov worked at the company for the rest of the summer, but Cheesecake Factory fired him September 10 after he missed a previously unscheduled shift from five days prior.

Ivanov field a complaint with the EEOC, which issued a Letter of Determination on April 22, 2016, stating that it found reasonable cause to believe that Cheesecake Factory violated the ADA.

The parties failed to reach a settlement, prompting the EEOC to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington.

"Under the ADA, employers must interact with the employee who has a disability to find an accommodation that works for both of them," said Nancy Sienko, director of EEOC's Seattle Field Office, in the news release. "Mr. Ivanov clearly communicated that he needed an accommodation to ensure that he could succeed at the job he was hired to do, but instead The Cheesecake Factory chose to fire him."

The complaint seeks monetary damages for Ivanov, as well as injunctive relief pertaining to the company’s anti-discrimination policies.