(CN) – An autistic man claims he was dissuaded from applying for a job at an Illinois Chick-fil-A after the restaurant’s manager told him that people with disabilities would not be able to succeed there.
James Kwon sued Chick-fil-A Inc. and Chick-fil-A of Orland Park FSU in Chicago federal court on Friday, claiming he was blocked from applying for a job at the Orland Park location due to his autism.
The restaurant's branch manager refused to consider him for any job and explicitly cited his disability as the reason, according to the complaint.
As part of a work-study program, the 25-year-old worked at a Bakers Square restaurant in the fall and winter of 2013. He says some of his job responsibilities included cleaning menus, taking out the garbage and vacuuming.
According to Kwon, his supervisor at Bakers Square said he performed his work diligently. After his work-study program came to an end, Kwon says he worked with a job coach with the goal of landing a full-time job.
In 2014, Kwon and his job coach visited the Orland Park Chil-fil-A in hopes of applying for a job similar to the one he held at Bakers Square, according to the lawsuit.
The branch manager was unavailable the first time, but Kwon says his job coach went back at a later date and was able to speak with the manager.
According to the complaint, the job coach explained the type of work Kwon did at Bakers Square but the Chick-fil-A manager said the restaurant was not interested in hiring people with disabilities.
"When the job coach reiterated that she thought James would do a good job, the branch manager stated that people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-fil-A," the complaint states. “Because of the branch manager’s statements, James did not complete a formal employment application to work at Chick-fil-A.”
A Chick-fil-A representative said Tuesday the company is working with its legal department in response to a request for comment from Courthouse News.
Kwon accuses Chick-fil-A of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by saying it would not hire any person with a disability, not making an individualized assessment of his ability to perform the work, and failing to examine whether any accommodation would address concerns about his ability.
He seeks compensatory, punitive damages and back pay, and is represented by Jin-Ho Chung with Equip for Equality in Chicago.