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McDonald's Discriminated Against Worker Over Port Wine Stain, EEOC Claims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 11, 2003

NORTHPORT, ALABAMA--Last Friday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed an ADA employment discrimination lawsuit against a McDonald's restaurant claiming it denied an employee chances for promotion -- then fired her -- based on her physical appearance.

Samantha Robichaud has what is known as a "port wine stain" covering much of her face as a result of a congenital condition known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome.

Robichaud started working as a cook at the restaurant with the understanding that she could move up through the organization if she showed she could handle several areas, including the front counter. But managers later removed Robichaud from the front counter and told her she would never be promoted to a management position because of her appearance. It later "constructed" her removal from the staff, Robichaud claims.

The EEOC, which enforces employment discrimination cases related to the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, filed the suit against R.P.H. Management, Inc., doing business as McDonald's in Northport, after it tried unsuccessfully to have the company settle the complaints out of court.

"Unfortunately, myths, fears and stereotypes continue to operate in the workplace to deny full employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities," said Charles E. Guerrier, Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham, Alabama office. "One of the worst types of discrimination occurs when an individual with a cosmetic disfigurement is denied a job because of the unjustified belief that customers will be offended simply by seeing that person.

"The opportunity to make a living and succeed in the workplace is not restricted to models and movie stars but is the promise held out to every person with talent, skills and ambition. Ms. Robichaud is a qualified individual who deserved better."

"All I ever wanted was a shot at the American dream," Ms. Robichaud said.

"McDonald's took that away from me."

Sturge-Weber Foundation


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