Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Donald, Chuck E. and the Benjamins

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Donald, Chuck E. and the Benjamins

Article excerpt

The jury found that Chuck E. Cheese violated the employment provisions of the ADA by discriminating against Donald when they fired him due to his disability; and they let Chuck E. Cheese know they meant business.

Some things are worth remembering, especially when it involves wanting to hit someone over the head with a two-by-four. Such was a lawsuit (in 1999) involving an individual in a disability discrimination case.

Donald Perkl worked for Chuck E. Cheese, the pizza chain in their Madison Wisconsin restaurant, where he performed custodial chores. Donald has cognitive disabilities and autism but worked productively with the assistance of a full-time job coach paid for by a community advocacy group. Donald was non-verbal but com pensated by using a set of picture cards and a handheld computer communications device. In fact most chain pizza restaurants use picture cards to remind the pizza makers (can't really call them chefs) that the cheese goes on after the sauce ... and on top of the round dough; so Chuck E. Cheese is no stranger to "assistive technology." They also use templates to remind their cognitively intact staff the approximate shape of a "circle," which apparently is preferred in pizza circles.

Donald loved working at Chuck E. Cheese and, according to his mother, he "literally jumped for joy and hit his head on the ceiling when he first told his family about his job at Chuck E. Cheese's." His success and acceptance as a valued employee was acknowledged and celebrated by the other employees; he was noted as a reliable mainstay and could always be counted on to show up and work with enthusiasm while boosting the spirits of his co-workers.

Apparently that didn't impress a new district manager (who deserves a whack with the two-by-four referenced in the opening paragraph) who took one look at Donald and instantly fired him, declaring that Chuck E. Cheese did not hire "those kind of people." The local manager and employees were horrified and asked the company president and CEO to intervene and reverse the decision; threatening to resign if Donald was not reinstated. It was apparent that the "E" in Chuck E. Cheese did not stand for "equality," "empathy," or "ethics;" and the company supported the firing.

Needless to say, a lawsuit (as in the "sauce hit the pan") was brought up against Chuck E. Cheese and as predicated they were found guilty of violating the provisions of the ADA by firing Donald based on his disability. …

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